The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography by Lois Potter

 

Narrated by J P Gemont

Description: “The Life of William Shakespeare” is a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of Shakespeare’s life and works focusing on oftern neglected literary and historical contexts: what Shakespeare read, who he worked with as an author and an actor, and how these various collaborations may have affected his writing. Written by an eminent Shakespearean scholar and experienced theatre reviewerPays particular attention to Shakespeare’s theatrical contemporaries and the ways in which they influenced his writingOffers an intriguing account of the life and work of the great poet-dramatist structured around the idea of memoryExplores often neglected literary and historical contexts that illuminate Shakespeare’s life and works.

With the FutureLearn course ‘Shakespeare and his World’ from The University of Warwick due to start at the end of next month, I thought this is a great opportunity to get this under the belt beforehand.

Just as astronomers can tell where a hidden celestial body is by the gravity it exerts on visible bodies in the vicinity, so Potter gives us a fantastic view of Shakespeare and his world. Daddy John was a bit of a rogue wasn’t he!

This book is only for those truly interested in the Bard as this is a scholarly, dense text, yet aficianados need not worry that this is dry, I didn’t find it so at all. A magisterial keeper for reference purposes.

01 Born into the World 1564-1571
02 Nemo sibi nascitur 1571-1578
03 Hic et obique 1578-1588
04 This man’s art and that man’s scope 1588-1592
05 Tiger’s hearts 1592-1593
06 The Dangerous Year 1593-1594
07 Our usual manager of mirth 1594-1595
08 The strong’st and surest way to get 1595-1596
09 When love speaks 1596-1597
10 You had a father, let the son say so 1596-1598
11 Unworthy scaffold 1598-1599
12 These words are not mine 1599-1801
13 Looking before and after 1601-1603
14 This most balmy time 1603-1605
15 Past the size of dreaming 1606-1609
16 Like an old tale 1609-1611
17 The second burden 1612-1616
18 In the mouths of men 1616-after

Highlights from Folger Shakespeare Library’s Release of almost 80,000 Images

Why Read the Classics? by Italo Calvino, Martin L. McLaughlin (translator)

 

Description: From the internationally-acclaimed author of some of this century’s most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light.

Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak’s masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunner of modern-day science-fiction writers. Learn how many odysseys The Odyssey contains, and why Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories are a pinnacle of twentieth-century literature. From Ovid to Pavese, Xenophon to Dickens, Galileo to Gadda, Calvino covers the classics he has loved most with essays that are fresh, accessible, and wise. Why Read the Classics? firmly establishes Calvino among the rare likes of Nabokov, Borges, and Lawrence–writers whose criticism is as vibrant and unique as their groundbreaking fiction.

Opening: “In France they start to read Balzac at school, and judging by the number of editions in circulation people apparently continue to read him long after the end of their schooldays. But if there were an official survey on Balzac’s popularity in Italy, I am afraid he would figure very low down the list”

Calvino has some interesting points in each of the thirty-six essays, however this is really more for the serious lit-lovers. No doubt I shall reach for the relevent chapters when I get around to the books he discusses.So it’s a keeper for the reference library

Muriel Spark: The Biography by Martin Stannard

bookshelves: under-100-ratings, published-2009, nonfiction, lit-crit, biography, radio-4, summer-2014, books-about-books-and-book-shops, britain-scotland, edinburgh

Read from July 04 to 11, 2014


R4x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ltrn9

Description: Born in 1918 into a working-class Edinburgh family, Muriel Spark ended her life as the epitome of literary chic, one of the great writers of the 20th century. This book tells her story.

1/5 Hannah Gordon reads from Martin Stannard’s biography of the acclaimed Scottish novelist.

2/5 Marriage to an older man offers escape from the claustrophobia of Edinburgh society.

3/5 Spark’s literary voice is discovered when she wins an Observer competition in 1951.

4/5 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie earns Spark critical and commercial success.

5/5 Despite finding happiness, the vexations of Spark’s family life intruded into her old age.

Not too keen on Stannard’s style however this does make me want to go back and read Spark all over again. Three Edinburgh Castles.

Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2009, radio-4x, nonfiction, biography, lit-crit, books-about-books-and-book-shops, next

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 10 to 15, 2014


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kmzyv

Description: Alice Krige reads from Claire Harman’s exploration of Jane Austen’s rise to pre-eminence from humble family scribblings to Hollywood movies.

The myth of Jane Austen is of a demure spinster, unobtrusively writing masterpieces in the corner of the family sitting room. The reality was of an ambitious and spirited young woman who was part of a lively, bookish family and keenly attuned to the literary world of her time.

Episode 1: Alice Krige reads from Claire Harman’s exploration of Jane Austen’s rise to pre-eminence from humble family scribblings to Hollywood movies.

Episode 2: The last years of Jane Austen’s life were a period of concentrated writing and business with publishers. Though largely cut off from the fashionable literary world, her fame was nonetheless beginning to spread.

Episode 3: The 19th century taste for the great, sprawling novels of Dickens, Thackeray and others left Jane Austen in relative obscurity for some decades. But public interest flared up again with her nephew’s publication of the first biography in 1870, and gained a momentum that was now unstoppable.

Episode 4: By the early years of the 20th century, the cult of ‘Divine Jane’ had seized Britain and America. For the soldiers of the First World War, she came to represent an Englishness that was far removed from the terrible realities of life in the trenches.

Episode 5: The use of Jane Austen’s name knows no generic boundaries. At the beginning of the 21st century we are witness to the spectacle of the young woman who happily limited her scope to ‘three or four families in a country village’ being marketed as a global brand.

Not a biography, rather the Austen phenomenon down the ages and the impact of her six novels being a terrific money-spinner for TV and film industry today. A gossipy, vapid offering.

Dylan Thomas by John Goodby

bookshelves: radio-3, britain-wales, lit-crit, poetry, essays, nonfiction, published-2001, under-10-ratings, fradio, spring-2014

Read from May 07 to 10, 2014


Dylan admires ……. the medieval Laugharne castle. The foreground shows the rear view of the wooden sculpture of Dylan Thomas set in the Millennium Garden

Recorded at the Laugharne Live Festival, in the grounds of Laugharne Castle, West Wales. Five leading writers and artists reflect on the ways in which they connect with one of Wales’s most famous cultural exports, Dylan Thomas.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042bk3l

Dylan Thomas Centenary

Episode 1: Professor John Goodby is one of the world’s most respected academic authorities on the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Using poems such as the radiant “In the White Giant’s Thigh”, “And death shall have no dominion” and “A Refusal to Mourn” he explores how the boundaries which Dylan Thomas crossed in both life and art have made it difficult for critics to pigeon-hole his legacy.

Episode 2: Andrew Davies reflects on the influence of Dylan Thomas on a child growing up in Wales in the 1950s, with aspirations to be a writer. A day trip to Rhossili beach and a Cornish pasty chimed with Davies’s role model’s account in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog”, but was this the gateway to a future as a poet?

Episode 3: The poet and writer Gwyneth Lewis, whose words are emblazoned over Wales Millennium Centre, takes a personal journey through the language of Dylan Thomas. She argues that to appreciate the work fully we must understand the poet’s rigorous practice and detailed knowledge of poetic history and tradition.

Millenium Centre

Episode 4: Linking up from New York, writer, poet and activist Kevin Powell looks at Dylan Thomas’s far-reaching influence on Black American writers, from his own introduction to Thomas’s words in the new poetry and spoken-word scene happening in New York in the early 90s, to the new wave of Black American artists inspired through hip-hop, spoken word and America’s oral tradition.

Episode 5: Poet and musician Twm Morys explores the links between Wales’s poetic heritage and Dylan Thomas’s writing. Drawing on memories of living in Thomas’s hometown of Swansea, he considers whether Thomas’s writing is universally acknowledged to represent the cultural landscape that nurtured its creation. [I loved this one]

Dylan Thomas reads After the Funeral (In Memory of Ann Jones)

Listen also to 120 mins from the Live Festival: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042bk3d

I have spent many a day on Rhossili and it is as beautiful, and as long, as described:

Professor Andersen’s Night by Dag Solstad

bookshelves: one-penny-wonder, paper-read, hardback, midlife-crisis, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, norway, spring-2013, bellybutton-mining, re-visit-2014, re-read, published-1996, spring-2014, under-500-ratings, oslo, trondheim, newtome-author, feckless-procrastination, food-glorious-food, lit-crit, politics, philosophy

Read from April 26, 2013 to May 06, 2014


First time around I abandoned this but I have been persuaded to give it another try: REBOOT 2014:

Description: An existential murder story. A master of Norwegian literature critiques contemporary society with wry wit.

It is Christmas Eve, and 55-year-old Professor Pål Andersen is alone, drinking coffee and cognac in his living room. Lost in thought, he looks out of the window and sees a man strangle a woman in the apartment across the street.

Professor Andersen fails to report the crime. The days pass, and he becomes paralysed by indecision. Desperate for respite, the professor sets off to a local sushi bar, only to find himself face to face with the murderer.

Professor Andersen’s Night is an unsettling yet highly entertaining novel of apathy, rebellion and morality. In flinty prose, Solstad presents an uncomfortable question: would we, like his cerebral protagonist, do nothing?

Discarded from Tower Hamlets Libraries
Translation by Agnes Scott Langeland

Opening: It was Christmas Eve and Professor Andersen had a Christmas tree in the living room. He stared at it. ‘Well, I must say,’ he thought.

Trondheim Cathedral

A wooly, waffley story of three parts: politics and dinner; dither and literary criticism; then sushi with philosophy for dessert.

At least I made it to the end this time, however I do feel that Solstad is not the writer for me.

Three Brothers by Peter Ackroyd

bookshelves: published-2013, e-book, ipad, spring-2014, period-piece, london, lit-richer, britain-england, tbr-busting-2014, under-100-ratings, families, antarctica, author-love, betrayal, books-about-books-and-book-shops, bullies, casual-violence, christian, doo-lally, filthy-lucre, journalism, library-in-norway, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-crit, prostitution, recreational-homicide, religion, roman-catholic

Read from March 11 to April 18, 2014

 

description: Rapier-sharp, witty, intriguing, and mysterious: a new novel from Peter Ackroyd set in the London of the 1960s.

Three Brothers follows the fortunes of Harry, Daniel, and Sam Hanway, a trio of brothers born on a postwar council estate in Camden Town. Marked from the start by curious coincidence, each boy is forced to make his own way in the world, a world of dodgy deals and big business, of criminal gangs and crooked landlords, of newspaper magnates, backbiters, and petty thieves.

London is the backdrop and the connecting fabric of these three lives, reinforcing Ackroyd’s grand theme that place and history create, surround and engulf us. From bustling, cut-throat Fleet Street to hallowed London publishing houses, from the wealth and corruption of Chelsea to the smoky shadows of Limehouse and Hackney, this is an exploration of the city, peering down its streets, riding on its underground, and drinking in its pubs and clubs.

Everything is possible, not only in the new freedom of the 1960s but also in London’s timeless past.

Opening: IN THE London borough of Camden, in the middle of the last century, there lived three brothers; they were three young boys, with a year’s difference of age between each of them. They were united, however, in one extraordinary way. They had been born at the same time on the same day of the same month—to be precise, midday on 8 May.


John A. Parks, Camden Town

Wormwood Scrubs in the ’50s

Three boys, so very different on the surface:

Harry ‘Heck’ Hanway, the reporter
Daniel, lit-crit bitch
Sam, personal assistant.

At an early age these lads drifted away from each other, however, by the time they are late teens, early twentiers, they are so ‘Oh my giddy aunt-ishly’ connected in both business and personal matters that it is a wonder Ackroyd could keep this devilishly sly plot going. All the balls were in the air.

Three Brothers is a parable about conectivity: I drew parallels with Brothers Karamazov, Dickens, and The New Testament, however it is because London itself is a main character that these parallels only held a superficial similarity. Ackroyd himself alludes to connections on page 192.

I did not enjoy those brief hallucinatory passages and that is reflected in a star fall.

3* Three Brothers
3* Hawksmoor
4* Shakespeare: The Biography
4* Chatterton
4* Dickens
1* The Lambs of London
3* The House of Doctor Dee
3* Poe: A Life Cut Short
3* Venice: Pure City
2* The Plato Papers
5* Tudors (The History of England, #2)
3* The Fall of Troy
4* Wilkie Collins
5* The Mystery Of Charles Dickens

Enoch Soames by Max Beerbohm

bookshelves: books-about-books-and-book-shops, britain-england, doo-lally, e-book, library-in-norway, lit-crit, newtome-author, nutty-nuut, poetry, published-1916, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, time-slip, under-50-ratings, spring-2014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: ‘Three Brothers’ – Peter Ackroyd
Recommended for: Gerry
Read on April 18, 2014

 

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/760

Opening: When a book about the literature of the eighteen-nineties was given by Mr. Holbrook Jackson to the world, I looked eagerly in the index for Soames, Enoch. It was as I feared: he was not there. But everybody else was. Many writers whom I had quite forgotten, or remembered but faintly, lived again for me, they and their work, in Mr. Holbrook Jackson’s pages. The book was as thorough as it was brilliantly written. And thus the omission found by me was an all the deadlier record of poor Soames’s failure to impress himself on his decade.

A 48 page tale concerning Catholic diabolism

The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays

bookshelves: essays, fradio, published-2012, radio-4, spring-2014, nonfiction, lit-crit, books-about-books-and-book-shops

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from March 03 to 07, 2014

 

BOTW

Description: Highlights from an entertaining and idiosyncratic series of essays from James Wood, the leading literary critic of his generation. It’s a collection which ranges widely, from a loving analysis of Keith Moon’s drum technique to the intentions, gifts and limitations of some of our most celebrated modern novelists, including Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan.

 photo nonfiction_zps50e8dfae.jpg

1.THE FUN STUFF: HOMAGE TO KEITH MOON
Wood analyses the lost genius of Moon and his ability to create magic out of mayhem, relating this to his own experience of learning to play drums as a boy.

2. KAZUO ISHIGURO: NEVER LET ME GO: Wood considers a masterwork that melds sci-fi with literary fiction – a cloning story that ‘combines the fantastic and realistic till we can no longer separate them’.

3. MARILYNNE ROBINSON: Wood looks at the religious sensibility of the American author whose Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead was one of the most ‘unconventional…popular novels of recent times.’

4. CONTAINMENT: TRAUMA AND MANIPULATION IN IAN McEWAN: Wood admires and critiques the author of Atonement, Enduring Love and On Chesil Beach – ‘the great contemporary stager of traumatic contingency as it strikes ordinary lives’.

5. PACKING MY FATHER-IN-LAW’S LIBRARY: Wood describes disposing of his late father in law’s library, and considers whether our personal collections of books hide us more than reveal us to our descendants.

Abridged by Eileen Horne
Reader: TBA

Produced by Clive Brill
A Pacificus production for BBC Radio 4.

A whimsy, a ramble, and okay on in the background but did I learn anything WOW or did it have me convinced that this IS made of the fun stuff promised in the title?

Not at all.

I would be mildly furious if I had shelled out for this, however for those lit-crit luvvies it may be worth a go.

Listen Here

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