Saturday, 30 July 2011

#42 Much Ado About Nothing

Its that time of the summer where the Montana Shakespeare Company comes to Gardiner.  They put up their makeshift stage and perform a comedy or on of the lighter tragedies.  Like every sumer, they performed in Arch Park, just outside the entrance to Yellowstone.  This particular scene is Benedict running after Beatrice, the two main funny characters in the play.  The funniest is of course Dogberry.  This performance decided to change the locale from Messina, Italy to Charleston, SC during the Civil War.  OK, it works with the spirit of the play, but it does take some getting used to the affected accents. I did manage to get a little burned by the intense sun as I sat out on the park lawn for just over two hours.  I enjoyed the performance and I am going to try and make an effort to watch Merchant of Venice at Chico Hot Springs in a couple of weeks.  Which means I am going to have to read that play too, as I do before I watch any Shakespeare play.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

#41 The Civil War by Caesar

imgres.jpegCivil War by Julius Caesar, 151 pages.

I was hoping this book would be as readable as the Gallic War, but it was more boring.  I don't understand, dramatically there is more at stake here, and the players are much grander than a loose confederation of Gallic tribes.  But this did not read good.  The rendering of Pompei as incompetent and at times merciless really did not make for compelling drama.  Of course Caesar is the hero in this book.  he is full of mercy, reason, and magnanimity.  He can do no wrong, though he does mention some of his defeats, but as a true statesmen they were not his faults.  Trying to get the reality of the Civil War by reading Caesar's book is similar to getting factual and unbiased news from FoxNews.  Still, it was an interesting book if only to see how Caesar views himself in the Civil War.  He is the victim of overreaching politicians spurred by the malignant Pompei, so nothing is his fault.  Not the countless dead romans, the exploding roman economy, the weakening of the republic, nothing.  I have to admit I am not a huge fan of Caesar's, so I read his book with that bias coming into it.  My bad.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

#40 The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology

Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell, 472 pages.

This was a long book on the early societies and the sorts of mythology they created.  I think it could have been several hundred pages shorter, and near the end I started daydreaming as I read.  Sometimes it is really easy to read Campbell, but this book just seemed to drag on a little too much.  But despite that, there were a lot of interesting points mentioned here, especially the contrast between the mythologies created by agricultural and hunter societies.

This book also explored the archetypes between mythologies and these were attributed to infantile impressions every person has, and the type of society they grew up in.

I really do not have much to say on the book, and much prefer A Hero with a Thousand Faces, as it is much more instructive and also shorter.  I may, in the distant future read volume two, but am undecided right now.

#39 The Spanish Tragedy

I have finally read a play I had intended to read years ago, The Spanish Tragedy (Hieronimo) by Thomas Kyd.  A playwright whose name occasionally pops up in Shakespearean studies.  And now I have read his finest play, and though his style of writing is extremely enjoyable to read, I did have some problems with certain characters and scenes.  At one point in the play I had to write in the margin, "Are these characters retarded!"  I rarely do that.  Here is hat led me to such a point...

The character Viluppo and his sub-plot.

The main plot: Hieronimo loses his son through treachery and does not have the power to prosecute, so performs revenge himself.

The sub-plot: The Portuguese Viceroy is told his son died through treachery, and condemns the supposed villain to being burned.

These two plots show the difference of the the fathers and having and not-having power.  It is a nice foil, only it feels really forced in this play, thanks to the uber-retard that is Viluppo.

Here is how his villainous plan works.  He tells the Portuguese Viceroy that his son has been treacherously slain by another Portuguese nobleman.  The king accepts the report as true and imprisons the nobleman.  Viluppo, being the solid idiot that he is, did not think out his plan.  He knew the son had been captured by the Spanish, and any day now a messenger would be along to demand a ransom.  Or to let the Viceroy know that his son was alive and well.  So what happens, a messenger does indeed show up, the nobleman is released and Viluppo is beheaded.  I can't say it was much of a loss for him, as his brain was mostly non-functioning.  This is one of the most forced sub-plots I have read in Renaissance drama.  The villainous plan was so poorly thought out, at its first mention the audience had to realize it was going to fail easily.

Despite the poor sub-plot, the main plot was for the most part engaging, though at times it too suffered from some forced situations and actions.  But this doesn't matter, I enjoy the language that Kyd uses, and his references and the thoughts he puts into his otherwise incompetent characters.  Even after this, I have to admit that I enjoyed reading the play.  (I know, I'm confused too.)

Monday, 11 July 2011

#38 Beyond the Horizon

This was my first foray into Eugene O'Neill, and I thought i should start with one of his early Pullitzer winning plays.    O'Neill sets the play up in a most obvious way.  Beyond the Horizon is the play about two brothers, Andrew and Robert. one brother is more poetic and the other is more earthly.  While gathering this most simple distinction from the copious amounts of stage description and direction notes, which may have actually exceeded the dialogue in length, I almost regretted starting the play.  "Oh no, not another play where poetry and earthly man conflict".  But I was a little surprised when O'Neill, playing with dramatic conventions, decided to switch the roles of the protagonists.  The poet was stuck married at the farm and had to eek out his existence through manual labor.  And the farmer was thrust into the world to have his Byronic adventures.  And both failed miserably.  The play was simplistic in language and the ideas were somewhat heavy-handed.  Despite the flaws, this play still worked on the basic level of getting his somewhat pedestrian ideas out there, wherever 'there' is.

The one thing I noticed almost immediately was the amount of stage direction in the play.  There was nothing left unsaid by O'Neill.  he apparently had a vision of who the stage should look, and even how the actors should act and appear.  He leaves no room for dramatic interpretation.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

My goal to 100

It is already July.  I can't believe the year is half over, which means I should be halfway to my goal of 100 books.  I'm looking at the books I have read so far and am only at 37.  37!!  Just 37!  I am 13 books behind, and am going to have to catch up somehow.  I have six months to read 63 more books.  I think I can do it if I do not get a job immediately after Yellowstone.

#37 Where Angels Fear to Tread

imgres.jpg181 pages.

This was Forster's first novel, or at least that is what I managed to gather from the back cover.  I never knew he could be humorous, I was expecting a somewhat somber tale that explored class and social differences.  Of course the class differences were everywhere apparent here, but there was a playful humor also, which was definitely enjoyed.  But the humor only goes so far once a certain point in the novel is reached and the humor is replaced with Forster's more somber storytelling voice.  I always enjoy reading his novels as he writes in a very fluid way.  I never have problems with his prose, nor am I distracted by unwanted rhetorical flourishes that seem to plague a lot of other writers.  Forster's is a simple and direct prose, at least this is my estimation of him.

As for the novel, I enjoyed it greatly.  It takes place in England and Italy and involves a baby.  That is all I will say.  It was a quick read and was over too soon.  I guess next up from Forster will be A Room with a View, which I have never even read a synopsis of.

Friday, 1 July 2011

#36 Le Morte Darthur

imgres.jpgby Sir Thomas Malory, 696 pages.

I did it.  I finally read the complete Le Morte Darthur in the original middle English.  It took a long time, but I did it.  I loved some parts of it, but I can safely say I am not impressed with reading about jousting tournaments and jousts.  It felt like there was a new jousting tournament every twenty pages.  Oh, please not another joust.  These jousts were brief but then they were followed by a swordfight that lasted for over three hours and blood was everywhere.  I want to know if they took restroom breaks.  Did they stop and have a civil lunch and then get back to the fighting?  Who fights and bleeds all over the place for three hours.  Thats like having a fist fight (less blood--maybe) for the duration of Gone with the Wind.  It doesn't seem possible.  Besides some of the jousts, which i viewed as fillers, the book had some very interesting stories and characters.  I have to say I found Sir Kay and amusing character, what with his over the top pride.  And Sir Gawaine was also a well developed character with anger issues and staying on his saddle.  Every other page some sturdier knight would knock him off his saddle and ride away.  It was comical.  And Dagonet was funny, and Sir Gareth had a funny story involving a shrewish woman.  There is much to recommend in this giant tome of a book, you just have to be patient.