Monday, November 19, 2007

Get your flu shot!

I'm sick. Oh boy am I sick. But I'm reading a lot, and I did get that information on the art show. Yay! So I'll have lots to share when I'm back.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bill Bryson on Shakespeare

What I really want to write about is this little art show that happened at John and Peter's last week, but I'm still waiting, waiting, waiting for more information from one James Arnold. JAMES! Get on it! Sigh.

So....this weekend I was sick. Sick enough to stay inside and in my pj's, but not sick enough to be hanging over the toilet. Sick enough, in other words, to stay in bed and read! And so, without further ado, and because I'm still waiting on JAMES ARNOLD ...I give you Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.

This little volume is a simple, straightforward lesson on the man who was Shakespeare: Who was he (no one really knows), how did he spend his time (not much information there either), was he actually gay (he married and had kids, but read his sonnets closely. I'll give you a hint: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day..." That one? Addressed to a man. Great friendship or more? You decide, because the academics sure haven't), and the big question - did Shakespeare actually write Shakespeare?

Oh my. You want a GREAT term paper for you Shakespeare loving English teacher? Do a little research and you will find numerous accounts of people and groups of people who seem to have more of a claim to Shakespeare's work than the little known man himself.

I enjoyed the book.

It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me take down my Riverside Shakespeare. Okay, I didn't laugh (may have chuckled) and I didn't cry (at all), but Bryson did peak my curiosity. And that is what a good biographer does.

So...if you interested in Shakespeare, or just the amount of words he (or someone else) coined, give this book a try.

(And if James Arnold is the guy who serves you your next meal at Zoubi - please for the love of all things literary, tell him to email me...)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Three Kingdoms

New Project: Three Kingdoms.

It's a trip. A long one.

Often compared to the Iliad, and one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, Three Kingdoms is the classic work of Luo Guanzhong (c. 1330 -c. 1400). This novel, and the story of the Three Kingdoms, has influenced Chinese (and now American) culture much in the same way that Shakespeare has transformed the lives and times of Richard II and Richard III for Western audiences. Three Kingdoms has inspired manga, various TV series and video games.

Three Kingdoms is a complex tale with over 100 principal characters. Written in both plain and Classical Chinese, Luo Guanzhong's text was considered the standard text for 300 years, and the Moss Roberts unabridged translation encompasses two books at about 550 pages each. It tells the story of the end of the Han dynasty and its division into three battle hungry kingdoms. (This dates somewhere between a.d. 200-280.)

A Chinese friend suggested the Moss Roberts translation, and even though my eyes fell out of their sockets when I saw the long list of characters and about 93 pages of notations, I knew I had to read this book. I don't have much experience with Chinese literature, and have been working on rectifying this.

If you have any interest in Chinese history, literature, or just an epic story, here is what you should think when you hear the title Three Kingdoms: MUST READ.

Has anyone read Three Kingdoms? Would love to hear your thoughts...

Bridge of Sighs (again)

I finished Bridge of Sighs.

Maybe it's because I work in a small town, family business, but I felt myself understanding the slow, plodding nature of Louie, and his ferocious love of place. Louie's school friend, Bobby, on the other hand, flees not only the town, but the country. In Europe he turns into a famous painter.

The town of Thomaston, NY, where Richard Russo plants his novel, is (like New Hope) populated with solid people who discover how versatile the human heart is, wonder if it is better to love or to be loved, wonder if it is better to aspire to something great or to embrace a comfortable life, and wonder what 'family' truly means.

After finishing this book you feel you know Russo's town of Thomaston as well as your own. You feel you could meet any of the characters at John and Peter's or any small town bar.

I couldn't help thinking of this book as a story of Richard Russo's own dueling personality. On one hand, we have the small town boy (like Russo) who loves his small town. On the other hand, we have the small town boy (like Russo) who leaves as soon as possible to become a famous artist.

Don't want to take my word for it? Here is a good review from the New Yorker Magazine.