A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro

 

Description: Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.

Opening: The weather in London in December 1598 had been frigid, so cold that ten days before New Year’s the Thames was nearly frozen over at London Bridge.

It was weird reading this, where the Irish ‘problem’ loomed large at the Elizabethan Court, and it being the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Uprising. What bastards the English were – truly, and I was amazed at Edmund Spenser: feel that I should go back and wipe that 5* off. Yet hey, that would be as stupid as taking Rhodes’s statue down from Oxford – uncomfortable or not, these things did happen and we should not squirm in the light of past atrocities but make a better world by examining past mistakes.

WHOA – in a **ping** moment of self enlightenment I come across how being PC can help wipe guilt off a subject. That really musn’t happen – let those bad decisions from the past stay and act as a warning.

The main themes in this book:
– bye-bye Will Kemp
– Essex and Ireland
– the Spanish question
– Globe building

Thanks Susanna & Judy

4* A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599
4* The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606

ourneys on the Silk Road: A Desert Explorer, Buddha’s Secret Library, and the Unearthing of the World’s Oldest Printed Book by Joyce Morgan

 

Description: When a Chinese monk broke into a hidden cave in 1900, he uncovered one of the world’s great literary secrets: a time capsule from the ancient Silk Road. Inside, scrolls were piled from floor to ceiling, undisturbed for a thousand years. The gem within was the Diamond Sutra of AD 868. This key Buddhist teaching, made 500 years before Gutenberg inked his press, is the world’s oldest printed book.

The Silk Road once linked China with the Mediterranean. It conveyed merchants, pilgrims and ideas. But its cultures and oases were swallowed by shifting sands. Central to the Silk Road’s rediscovery was a man named Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born scholar and archaeologist employed by the British service.

Undaunted by the vast Gobi Desert, Stein crossed thousands of desolate miles with his fox terrier Dash. Stein met the Chinese monk and secured the Diamond Sutra and much more. The scroll’s journey—by camel through arid desert, by boat to London’s curious scholars, by train to evade the bombs of World War II—merges an explorer’s adventures, political intrigue, and continued controversy.

Opening: An unforgiving wind blew clouds of dust and sand as if every grain were aimed at one tired man astride a weary pony. He urged his mount forward, determined to keep a promise. He had set out long before dawn, leaving behind his team of men and pack animals, knowing he would have to cover in one day ground that would typically take three. Traveling through the heat and glare of the Central Asian desert, he now looked on his vow—to arrive that day on the doorstep of friends in a distant oasis—as uncharacteristically rash. But for seventeen hours he pressed on across parched wastes of gravel and hard-baked earth.

You can read the Diamond Sutra online here

Paul Pelliot (1878-1945), a French Sinologist translating.


From 2004: The Diamond Sutra, which bears the date 868 AD, was found in a walled-up cave in Dunhuang, north-west China, in 1907, along with other printed items.

A Raging Calm by Stan Barstow

bookshelves: winter-20152016, britain-england, play-dramatisation, art-forms, under-50-ratings, published-1969, period-piece, politics, eng-yorkshire

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from January 18 to February 07, 2016

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00767d8

Description: Tom Simpkins is a respected public figure in Cressley. He is also the long-time lover of a married woman. But when the husband of his mistress is killed in a car crash, he is forced to re-evaluate his life and relationships.

Episode 1: In 1960s Yorkshire, Andrea meets Philip, a married man. Tenderness, not lust, might be the real enemy. Stars Deborah McAndrew.

2/10: town councillor Tom discovers unsettling news about his lover Norma’s husband.

3/10: with their affair still a secret, Andrea meets Philip’s wife, Kate.

4/10: The tragic news of Norma’s husband draws Tom closer, but at what cost to her kids?

5/10: can Andrea and Philip, a married man, keep their affair a secret?

6/10: Tom plans for Norma’s future, while Andrea’s future is very much threatened.

7/10: Andrea faces a battle, while Shirley is shocked by her brother’s news.

8/10: after finding out Tom is actually her father, Shirley has gone missing.

9/10: Election Day draws closer with Philip and Tom as rivals.

10/10: Election Day and Andrea and Philip’s wife, Kate, clash

4* A Kind of Loving
4* A Raging Calm

1916: What the People Saw by Mick O’Farrell

 

Description: When the rebellion of 1916 had ended, more than 400 people were dead and over 2,000 wounded. More than half of these were civilians, but even for those civilians who were not direct casualties, the rising was one of the most momentous experiences of their lives. The accounts that Mick O’Farrell has collected come from letters, diaries, extracts from otherwise unrelated biographies, and contemporary magazine and newspaper articles.

Some common themes are present in the accounts. For instance, a fear of going hungry, which resulted in constant, and dangerous, attempts to stock up with supplies. There was also a grim realisation (despite two years of World War) that war had arrived on their doorstep: ‘We know a bit what War is like now’. For some, there was even an undeniable element of excitement – one witness writes that ‘now that it’s over, none of us would’ve missed it for the world’. After watching a woman shot in the street, another witness notes that he ‘saw a man rush out and take a snapshot’. Elsewhere, there are ‘crowds looking on as if at a sham battle’. For most, however, it was the kind of excitement they could do without:

Complimenting the many historical accounts of the rising and statements from the participants, this book gives a real flavour of what it was like to live through history in the making.

Author: Mick O’Farrell was born in Dublin in 1966, the year of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. He has been studying the history and locations of the Rising for some years.He is the author of ’50 Things You Didn’t know about 1916′ and ‘A Walk Through Rebel Dublin 1916’.

Apart from some small actions, the 1916 Rising lasted seven days, from Easter Monday to the following Sunday.

Easter Monday, 24 April 1916: Beginning of rebellion. Main body of rebels muster outside Liberty Hall – conflicting orders result in a turnout much smaller than hoped for. From about midday on, the following locations are occupied by rebels:

• GPO and other buildings in O’Connell Street area;
• Four Courts, Mendicity Institution;
• St Stephen’s Green, College of Surgeons;
• Boland’s Mills and surrounding area, including Mount Street Bridge and nearby houses;
• City Hall and several buildings overlooking Dublin Castle;
• Jacob’s biscuit factory, Davy’s pub by Portobello Bridge;
• South Dublin Union and James’s Street area;
• Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park.

Proclamation of Republic read by Pearse outside GPO. Lancers charge down O’Connell Street. Looting starts. That afternoon the British counterattacks begin.

Tuesday, 25 April 1916: City Hall retaken by military. Shelbourne Hotel occupied by soldiers and machine-gun fire forces rebels to retreat from St Stephen’s Green to the College of Surgeons. British reinforcements, including artillery, arrive. Martial Law proclaimed.

Wednesday, 26 April 1916: Liberty Hall shelled by Helga, backed by field guns. Artillery put into action against buildings on O’Connell Street. Kelly’s Fort evacuated. Metropole Hotel occupied by rebels. Troops marching from Dun Laoghaire halted by rebels at Mount Street Bridge. After many hours of intense fighting and terrible casualties, the military gain control of the area. Clanwilliam House burns to the ground. Mendicity Institution retaken by the British.

Thursday, 27 April 1916: Military shelling of O’Connell Street intensifies. Fires on O’Connell Street begin to rage out of control. Hopkins & Hopkins and Imperial Hotel evacuated because of the inferno.

Friday, 28 April 1916: General Sir John Maxwell arrives in Dublin. Metropole Hotel evacuated. Rebels evacuate GPO. New HQ established in Moore Street.

Saturday, 29 April 1916: Non-combatants murdered in North King Street. Rebel leaders in Moore Street decide to surrender. Four Courts garrison surrenders.

Sunday, 30 April 1916: Rebels in remaining outposts surrender – College of Surgeons, Boland’s, Jacob’s and the South Dublin Union. Deportation of prisoners.

Wednesday, 3 May – Friday, 12 May: Fifteen rebels, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic, are executed by firing squad.

History from the bottom up is always to be preferred over traditional recording methods and you won’t get closer to the truth of the impact of the Easter Uprising than from the letters etc from the people there at the time, trying to survive, feed their families, and stave off impending viruses and stray bullets.

Take a wander through, it is interesting and supplements a FutureLearn course I took a few months ago.

Stop the Clocks by Joan Bakewell

bookshelves: winter-20152016, autobiography-memoir, published-2016, nonfiction, non-fic-feb-2016, moral-high-ground, those-autumn-years

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from January 25 to February 07, 2016

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06z255v

Description: Since she reached the age of 80, Dame Joan Bakewell has been working harder than ever – campaigning, writing and sitting in the Lords. Now the former journalist takes a moment to reflect on the passage of time, and the changes she has witnessed in her lifetime. Her theme is ‘thoughts on what I leave behind’.

Stop the Clocks is a book of musings, a look back at what Joan Bakewell was given by her family, at the times in which she grew up – ranging from the minutiae of life, such as the knowledge of how to darn and how to make a bed properly with hospital corners, to the bigger lessons of politics, of lovers, of betrayal.

At times joyful, at times pensive, she contemplates the past without regret, and looks to the future without fear, but with firm resolve. Once the ‘thinking man’s crumpet’, Joan remains outspoken and outrageous.

1/5: the former journalist takes a moment to reflect on the passage of time, and the changes she has witnessed in her lifetime. Her theme is ‘thoughts on what I leave behind’.

2/5: Remembering the extra-marital affair with Harold Pinter

3/5:Dubbed as ‘The thinking man’s crumpet’

4/5: Pondering over what will become of her body after death

5/5: Lost friends, and life affirming friends

Marianne Faithfull As Tears Go

How to Flee from Sorrow by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

bookshelves: winter-20152016, music, published-2016, radio-4, play-dramatisation, italy, italy-rome, italy-venice, historical-fiction, italy-turin, art-forms

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read on February 07, 2016

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06vf…

Description: Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682) conjured music of sublime formality out of a life of chaotic violence. At a time when composers were expected to abase themselves before their patrons, Stradella swindled his, and seduced their mistresses before falling foul of hired assassins. Our central characters are all real historical figures, brought back to life by Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

Stradella enjoys enormous success in Rome but has to flee to Venice after he and his sidekick, the hunchback violinist Lonati, get a rich man drunk and then con him into marrying a poor, old woman of ill repute. Incapable of settling into a comfortable life at court, Stradella becomes one of the first truly freelance composers – juggling commissions, scrabbling after money, fleeing from scandal. The number of midnight flits he has to make give the story a comic tempo, but one story gives the drama its heart, the love story between Stradella and Agnese, the ‘niece’ of the Doge of Venice.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce (who includes the London Olympics opening ceremony in his many credits) has researched the original historical letters to create Stradella’s fiery, funny and charismatic voice and uses Stradella’s beautiful and innovative music to tell this story. The Director of Music, Dr Alberto Sanna, is one of the leading interpreters of Stradella and Corelli. How To Flee From Sorrow is based on an original idea by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Dr Alberto Sanna.

Alessandro Stradella Trystan Gravelle
Arcangelo Corelli Harry Treadaway
Agnese van Uffele Alice St Clair
Lonati Ralf Little
Cardinal Cibo David Hounslow
Contarini, Doge of Venice Chris Pavlo
Duchess Maria Giovanna Amelia Lowdell

Violin ….. Dr Alberto Sanna