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Reading Round Up: February


For a short month February provided ample time to plow through a bevy of satisfying and diverse books. Two snow days from school helped in getting some serious cozy cocoa and recliner reading done. So many great titles and discoveries to share with you!

 

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
4 stars

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A reimagining, rather than a retelling of the Chinese folktale of Mulan, Dickerson’s version is set in 15th century Lithuania. In this version, Mulan is the illegitimate daughter of Mikolai, a warrior father who has died. Mulan serves as a warrior to save her mother from becoming homeless, and to escape from an unwelcome arranged marriage.
The first half of the plot relates Mulan’s adventures as a soldier. With realistic detail, Mulan struggles to meet the demands of fighting amongst men, while trying to hide her identity. During battle she meets and becomes friends with Wolfgang, a duke’s son. Inevitably their friendship develops into something deeper once Wolfgang discovers why he is attracted to and is protective of the young soldier known as Mikolai.
Unfortunately, the second half of the story becomes enmeshed in being more of a romance novel than the adventuresome first part. Attention to historical detail and the smooth rendering of the multiple points of view, lean this more towards a four star than a three star review.
This title refers to characters from the previous book in the Hagerheim series, yet it can be read as a standalone.

NOTE: received as review copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review

The Long Game (The Fixer #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
4 stars

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Sequels are tough. For the most part The Long Game continues the energy from The Fixer, and weaves in enough referrals to keep new readers abreast of previous action. The Long Game focuses on action instead of characters and character dynamics is what made The Fixer such a riveting story. There is not a mention of Gramps in The Long Game and considering how important he is to Tess and Ivy, it seems an injustice to drop him from the plot. Tess is one amazing young woman, yet she is a high school teen not Jason Bourne. Still, the writing is superb, the plot twists darn right surprising. Just wee bit too intense with a few plot holes holding it back.

Ben and Me by Robert Lawson
4 stars

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I am not sure how this book escaped my attention as a kid. Best to make up for lost time. It is a classic and has all kinds of charm—YET—I’m not sold out on Amos. I can’t get past how only Ben could hear Amos talk, and all those other plot holes, like how does a mouse buy a hat?  The illustrations are the best part of the story, and they were actually better than the story. Just saying.

NOTE: I had to scurry and read this for our February Debatable–which was a doozy of a debate. What? You missed it? Best check it out [my choice of best mouse won with Reepicheep of Narnia series fame]

At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald
4 stars

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This one of those literary novels that are Joycian in how there is no plot, rather it’s one long character study with a tableau of characters. Nothing really happens, yet there is an urgency that something might. And it takes ever so long to realize it doesn’t. Brilliantly written, of course.

NOTE: since the library doesn’t own The Bookshop, which I hope to read before watching the movie, I grabbed this instead. If this were made into a movie I would envision Bette Davies as Freddie.

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
4 stars

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Avoidance of Holocaust books is my usual modus operandi, yet a based-on-a-true story about a library in Auschwitz? I pulled it down from the shelf with anticipation.
The beginning is absolutely riveting as the young Dita attempts to hide a couple of books during a spot inspection. Will she be caught?  From that auspicious start the plot veers into a medley of different characters with historical facts woven in for good measure. The omniscient present tense creates a distance, making it difficult to fully embrace the story. Dita is amazing, but she is not truly the focus.  The atrocities began to burden the story until it began to be a reading of endurance instead of interest. Of course a book set in a concentration camp is going to have tragedy; however, I was drawn in by the title—a librarian at Auschwitz? That sounded like a story based in hope.
The research and details are well-done and this, perhaps, is what creates a barrier from establishing a solid connection with the characters—a bit of a textbook mingled with a dynamic storyline is the result. It almost works and maybe it worked better in the author’s original language. Translations sometimes do lose some of the story’s essence.

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
5 star

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YA usually comes in the flavors of dystopian, supernatural, romance, strong female protagonist, sci fi, high school drama, adventure; however, the newest menu choice is political thriller. The Fixer is surprisingly addicting and amazing in how it takes the high school drama trope, mixes in some adventure, with a strong female protagonist, and tops it off with political intrigue. Unexpectedly refreshing.
Tess, who hails from Montana, suddenly finds herself planted in Washington DC in a life far different than her previous. Although shoveling muck out of horse stalls and brooking a strong intolerance for bullies are skills that serve her well in DC.
The writing is superb, as is the pacing, and the plot twists are to be applauded. This is a reluctant 5 star due to the difficulty of totally accepting the maturity and capabilities of this group of teens. Then again, living in DC is not for sissies.

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
5 star

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Santos had me at Cary Grant. All the mentions of classic black and white films was a bonus to the imaginative plot, dynamic characters, and lyrical prose. To be perfectly honest though, this is more of a 4.85 rating as the ending half began to unravel a bit with tying off of loose ends. The author’s background in poetry serves her well, since the descriptive imagery practically sings, yet doesn’t overshadow the plot. A couple of unexpected plot twists, a winsome little girl, and a mystery mom, along with unconventional storytelling techniques makes this a memorable read. And it’s her first one–looking forward to more.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
5 star

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Harbor Me is in the vein of Wonder in how it brings people together with its message of acceptance. Although it is a middle read, its prose is rich and well-crafted and is, quite frankly, thoroughly amazing. A niggling concern is how in the world could a school legally get away with having an unsupervised “chat” room for students? Definite artistic license superseding legal responsibilities. Setting that aside, the conceit of ARRTful sharing works in how it opens up the world of a diverse group of children on the verge of becoming teens in a world becoming more and more complicated.

The Citadel by A.J. Cronin
5 star

634747A solid classic. Strong, memorable characters, engaging storyline, and enriching details come together to purport the tale of a young, penniless doctor who rises out of the obscurity of backwoods coal mining towns to becoming a rich, well-respected London physician. His trading out of idealism for a comfortable life comes with great costs, yet the story just falls short of moralism. Due to the style found in the time period of publication,some of the story techniques are a bit antiquated, as in the tried and true, “tell rather than show” instead of having the story evolve from the characters themselves. There is also some melodramatic moments. Nevertheless, it is still well-written and a meritable read.  It’s not surprising that the book was made into a film and a BBC series.

Don’t Close Your Eyes: A Silly Bedtime Story by Bob Hostetler illustrations by Mark Chambers
5 star

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Playfully engaging, the rhyming text teams up to the whimsical illustrations to coerce its audience to NOT fall asleep. That’s right. Instead of the usual drone of encouraging young listeners to gently enter slumber, this book keeps cheerfully reminding its readers to stay awake. The reverse psychology is fun and children will no doubt enjoy the gentle nudge to keep their eyes open wide open instead of closing them for the night.
One of those books that invite multiple reads.

NOTE: received as review copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review

The last entry is not so much a dissapointment, but it just didn’t fulfill the hope of being better:

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman
3 stars
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Historical novels set around WWII easily catch the interest, especially when it’s a unique view of the war effort through work done at the Springfield Armory. The jacket blurb indicates family drama: two sisters who cannot reconcile petty jealousies and misunderstandings that fill their relationship from childhood to being adults.
What could have been a deep study of family relationship interaction became a bouncing point of view telling with several women each telling their perspective. The intermittent timeline weaving and flashbacks made it difficult to truly connect with the characters. Multiple viewpoint stories run towards the problem of thinly spreading the plot too wide. Well-placed setting, though, as it is obvious the author did her research
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Writing Quotes


Usually I dedicate a chunk of time during the summer to writing projects: finishing, editing, revising, submitting. This summer writing has taken a back seat to my dealing with healing. Typing with my left hand, mainly my left thumb while my right hand passively observes, is not conducive to getting a lot of writing done. There is a deadline of 10 pages by August 21 I’m gamely trying to meet.

So–I get sidetracked. One of my more diverting diversions is looking up words on dictionary.com and I came across these quotes of encouragement. Hope one of them rings true for you:

   
               

From Super-size to Bite-size


With summer vacation officially starting for me I decided to attack my office and tidy up the mounds of paper that has been accumulating through the year. This is both a needed chore and also serves as a means of procrastination. I know I should be sitting down and actually getting back to those writing projects. Like that cow joke book…

Cows can wait momentarily, for I found treasures to share.


[Zits points out that literature, and I will extend this to quotes, is a matter of perspective] 

Every year in September I attend the local SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference. My main goal is have a manuscript professionally critiqued by an editor or agent (who will be so delighted with my writing that I am offered a contract on the spot). Another goal is network and source gather. Both are conducive to bettering my writerly skills.

One workshop handout proved too fun to toss.The idea is to take a well-known quote and make it more relatable to teens by translating into more YAish language. Here is their example:

“When today fails to offer the justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing.” Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Here’s their translation: “Some days it’s hard to see the point of it all, so you have to wait for tomorrow and hope by then there’ll be something worth waking up for.”

I don’t know about you, but I can see this opening up a YA book that will be full of angst, humor, a touch of romance, and maybe even a bit of defiance.

YA is one genre that I would like to get out there into the hands of readers. There must be room for another John Green. I’m working on getting my YA voice down, and that’s the point of this exercise. Tell you what, rate me on whether I’m even close.

Marcel Proust, In Search of Time
“We believe that we can change the things around us in accordance with our desires–we believe it because otherwise we can see no favourable outcome.”

C.Muse translation:
“If I can’t see the silver lining, I’m still gonna carry an umbrella.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.”

C.Muse translation:
“The world wants to suck your joy, just like vampires, and vampires aren’t exactly EMTs.”

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

C.Muse translation:
“Life is too short to be hanging on to bruises–get over it and go have a bagel.”

Quotes of great possibility I didn’t get to:

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever know.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It was actually pretty entertaining to listen to everyone’s interpretation. As I recollect my vampire translation received a few polite guffaws. Does that mean it was perceived as a home runner or just a bummer?

I do have a couple of YA manuscripts I plan on revisiting and sending out on their “please-publish-me” tour.

Blue Skies and hope your summer is also off to a spiffy start.

 

 

Author Spotlight: Shakespeare and The Force Is Still With Us


We are still in the year of Shakespeare, and exploring how the Bard has touched our lives. Ian Doescher took his self-proclaimed Shakesnerd and has done something productive about. It makes sense that Star Wars would be the next mash-up since, after all, we have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The Folger Shakespeare Library provides a nifty blog addressing all things Shakespeare, appropriately naming it “Shakespeare & Beyond.” One delightful post involves a focus on Doescher and his creation of his Star Wars series, in which he retells the Star Wars stories in iambic pentameter. Yes, he has done this. Brilliantly. On a radio interview, a podcast, he discusses how the Star Wars series came to be. His Yoda impression is not to be missed.

Ian Doescher interview

What if Star Wars was written four hundred years ago…

Shakesyear


This is a biggie for Shakespeare fans. This is the year we Bardinators celebrate the 400 years of the Bard’s influence since he left us in 1616. Usually I spotlight an author around this part of the month, but I plan I spotlighting Billy Bard every month this year as my personal salute to the guy who brought us plays like Hamlet, words like crocodile, and phrases such as “in a pickle.” So if you are not into Shakespeare plan on skipping my posties at the end of the month OR maybe I can convince you that Shakespeare is a big deal. You might want to skip down to the Shakespism video to see if you suffer from this malady.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the first Folger Summer Academy  in which thirty teachers from all over the USA came together and studied Hamlet for a week at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. It was a WOW time–Wonderful, Oh Wonderful.

Being surrounded by Shakespeare scholars and being immersed in Shakespeare culture for an entire week fortified my appreciated for the legacy of the playwright/poet of Stratford.

An embarrassing confession: it’s only been a mere fifteen years since I discovered Shakespeare. There was no Shakespeare in my home, in my schools, nor did I encounter him during my college years. Sad and shocking, I know. It wasn’t until I became an English teacher and had to teach Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet that I realized I had much to learn and I determined I had best make up for lost time.

As a celebration of  the Bard’s 400 years of influence the Folger Library is providing a first ever tour of Shakespeare’s First Folio. This is the book Shakespeare’s friends and colleagues put together after the Bard’s death and contains the thirty plus plays we associate with Shakespeare. I saw AND touched the Folio. Big ooooh factor. I also handled his lease for his Stratford house. Somehow that had more meaning because I know he actually touched that document. The folio is a more or less a tribute of his greatness, but he knew nothing about it.

However, I realize not everyone is wowed by William. Here are some videos that might help you overcome your Shakesfear or ennui of Bard Hoopla.

 

Wouldn’t You Know–A Reflection on Desks


Where writers write is almost as fascinating as how they write. Personally, I become rather discouraged rather than encouraged to read about authors with routines that involve getting up at 4:30 am, doing yoga first, downing their wheatgrass shake, writing away until noon with no breaks because they are of the “plant butt in chair” answer to the obsequious “how to be a writing success?” Quora question.

I am more interested if it’s a wouldn’t desk or not. That’s no typo.

A “wouldn’t” desk is different than a wooden one. A wouldn’t desk involves an alter ego, as in “You wouldn’t believe that when the laundry is off this couch, this is where I work on my cow joke book.” Or “You wouldn’t think that writing in bed would be comfortable or even productive.”

Both couches and beds have served as my desks. Apparently I’m in good company because Mark Twain is famous for writing in his bed. He kept a pool table in his bedroom for when he needed a break from  writing. That’s one big bedroom.

I have yet to find an author who wrote or writes on a couch, that is, a purple one. I purchased mine as my muse and placed it next to my bed. A lovely shade of deep eggplant, it’s  in patterned plush, reminding me of the old movie theatre seats in the Rialto of my childhood years. It has since disappeared into the guest room where it lives an unfilled life as a laundry sorting station.

I ditched desks a long time ago due to two factors:

1. Space

2. Clutter

Desks take up a lot of space. Plus they are so imperiously demanding. Desks can’t go anywhere and require sitting at them. My creativity is shackled somewhat to planting my hindness in that chair. Realizing sitting at a desk feels too much like being a student expected to produce something worthy of a grade, I have since ditched the desk.

Another factor for being deskless is guilt. I could not bear allocating one of the bedrooms as my office. Kids do better not being piled up like Twinkies in a box  in terms of sharing rooms. So, my desk found itself in the living room or our bedroom which led to problem #2:

Clutter is ineviable when a flat horizontal surface beckons. Bills, library books, toys, plates, cups, laundry (which finds a place no matter in the house) all land on my desk. Like Rodney Dangerfield, my desk got no respect. Hence the switch to the couch. Which is a horizontal surface, wouldn’t you know. I ditched desks, couches, beds as writing stations when I switched to a laptop from a desktop computer. My desk is now an IKEA chair. Foot rest is option. It has yet to serve as a laundry station.

Now that I am an empty nester, I have commandeered an abandoned bedroom (after 18, unless they pay into the mortgage,a progeny’s bedroom is absorbed into the household) and have a bed, a couch, a rocking chair, and an IKEA chair as muse choices. No pool table at present, but I do have my son’s lava lamp, which is pretty good entertainment.

So–about your desk?

image: Wikipedia The secret is in Twain’s plumpy pillows

Do Rah Mean Reviews


I started reviewing books about twenty years ago, mainly because I wanted a steady supply of books to read since at that time we lived out in the toolieloops, about an hour from town, and with three kids in tow this involved a spirit of adventure and a rousing case of cabin fever to shake me into organizing a “going to town” outing.

A book reviewer I became.

One thing learned about book reviewing is the art of the “do rah” as in do be a cheerleader of sorts and Thumperize a book–find something nice to say. As a writer, I can’t imagine reading a review and having to bear any slicing and dicing of my creative endeavour.

Yet, there are those who skip the do rah and just go for mean. You know what I’m talking about. Those vitriolic reviewers that pen scorn and derision that practically blame the tree for providing the pulp that provided the paper for the book.

Tsk.

Not long ago I felt compelled to comment on such a review found on Goodreads addressing a book I recently finished. I mentioned the importance of setting aside 21st century expectations when reading historical fiction. Whoa! A personal tirade was my reply. I didn’t see that one coming. Fortunately, another reader rebuffed that reply saying the writer was out of line and should be warned. Are there Goodread police who hand out “play nice” tickets?

“Don’t be a meanie, be a do rah-er when reviewing books.” morguefile.com/JessicaGale

That little episode provided the epiphany that mean reviews perhaps stem from mean-spirited people, and I try even harder to offer more positive than negative comments in my reviewing. After all, that some day of getting my cow joke book published might actually arrive and I wouldn’t want my bovine humor butchered unfairly by unfriendly reviewers.

What thoughts on mean reviews? Do they dissuade or persuade you to read the book?

Author Snapshot: D.E.Stevenson


As we know authors wax and wane in popularity. Books that eager readers  once  grabbed off the shelves now forlornly gather dust, or go out of print or end up in the free bin. That’s why it’s exciting when an author can rekindle interest and prove she still holds staying power forty years after her death and last book was published. The author? D.E. Stevenson. Her devotees are known as “Dessies.”

  Some fine facts:

  • Dorothy Emily Stevenson was a related to THE Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Educated by a governess and denied college because her father didn’t want an educated woman in the family.
  • She published nearly fifty books in her career.
  • At the height of her career, her books sold in the millions internationally.
  • A granddaughter discovered a couple of manuscripts in the attic in 2011 and they were immediately snapped up and published.
  • Being Scottish, most of her plots center around Scotland and England, with WWI and WWII’s affect on its people often being a main theme. 
  • Her books gave clear insights into the lives of those who called the countryside their home.
  • Adept at characterization, her books often overflowed and intermingled with one another.
  • Died in 1973, yet beginning in 2009, her books are slowing being reissued.

A snippet from a BBC article

Members of Stevenson’s family are amazed by her enduring popularity. Her daughter, Rosemary Swallow, remembers how her mother worked.

“She would sit down on the sofa, put her legs up and light a cigarette,” she said.

“She had a special writing board, a wooden board covered in green baize and she would just carry on writing whatever was going on around her.

“She was very, very good at character writing. There’s no rude sex or anything like that, just a good yarn with a beginning, a middle and an end.”

On a personal note: 

I discovered her books about twenty years ago when working at a public library. A friend and co-worker knew I preferred “gentle” reads and suggested Stevenson. I read everything the library owned, and even ventured into the scary overflow storage basement to retrieve forgotten copies. 

Currently I’m on a mission to read all her titles. The writing is solid, with its intriguing plots involving mysteries, light romance, and brilliant characterization. When I’m feeling a bit lost due to stress from a long week, I find myself again by reading a Stevenson novel.  

Reading Challenge Met!


2015 Reading Challenge

I signed on with GoodReads mainly to keep track of my books. I so enjoy being spared of the agonizing “Okay, it had a yellow cover and the author only published this one novel…” or some such scenario of “which one and who wrote it.” GR has become my tidy little techno Rolodex of titles.

While keeping track of my books is indeed a boon for this Book Booster, I realized after reading other people’s blogs I was missing out on one other amazing feature (there are still quite a few I’m discovering): The Reading Challenge.

This feature has completely revved up my reading habits. Even though I am voracious reader, I am usually unaware of my volume. Not that it matters, but I would like to know how many books I go through in the course of a year, just because. It’s not that I’m addicted to reading, yet I notice when I don’t have a book to read I’m not feeling quite aligned. For instance, I paced myself and read a long book on my trip (North and Southt) and on Sunday found myself book less because I hadn’t gone to the library to stock up for my return reading afterwards. The reason? I do this odd thing of returning all library books, whether or not I’ve read them, before going on a trip. Even if it’s a just for a few days. I suppose my imagination believes I will fall into a black hole before my return and I don’t want to inconvenience the library of harboring missing books. As a result of my odd ritual of travel preps, I ended up with no book for my usual Sunday nap and read session. Ghastly, I know. On the positive side, it did free up some reflection time for books I have read this year because…

I have met my reading challenge of 50 books way before expected. 

Going through the list I created these stats for myself-I wonder if WordPress would consider loaning their stat monkeys out to GoodReads…

Total pages read:14, 288–I’m not sure if that is profound or pathetic

Average pages: 285–this balances fairly well, since I eclectically read books like The Little Prince, which is 11 pages, and then sit down with books like North and South, weighing in at around 500.

Most popular genre: this surprised me–I consider myself one who favors fiction and read non-fiction sparingly, yet I came up 11 non-fiction books! That’s getting upwards on my list. Gobstoppers! The other genres are 16 historical fiction/classics; Juvie/YA 13; and 12 for contemporary/popular. The numbers add up to 52, so obviously I counted one for two categories–no doubt those Darcy-type books snuck into the historical popular categories.

Fastest cover-to-cover: Little Prince–yet it’s not really a quick read, especially when I stop to investigate and reference all the lovely information found on so many LP dedicated sites.

Longest to read: those 500 page books do drag a bit, yet if they can keep the pace they go by quickly. Ink heart needed a firm editing in parts, considering it’s a Juvie, the pace moored down to boots in molasses at times–don’t kids prefer snap, crackle, action?

Most attractive cover:this is a toughie because attractive is so subjective, and there is that emotional aspect of expectancy involved–for now I’ll say Go Set a Watchman, due to it hearkening back to the original cover of TKAM, of which I am so fond.

Best jacket blurb: Slight Trick of the Mind–what would Sherlock be like in his waning years? I had to know.

Worst jacket blurb: this is actually my 51st book but it should have been the 50th (I won’t bother you with the details). The Guersney Literary and Potato Pie Society sounded like a quaint, character-driven epistolary novel about a quirky group of book boosters. However, as I became more involved in it, it became clear it was more of a historical reference on the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. I tend to shy away from these books having helped edit my mother’s own wartime memoir, and am now over-saturated with the destruction and sadness of this war. Light-hearted is what seemed promised, and what I really needed at that point in my schedule, and I end up crying upon learning about the further cruelty of WWII victims. It had lighter moments, but became too heavy in horrendous wartime details for my comfort.

Top five favorites:

  • The Great Gatsby–a reread and I truly appreciate the symbols and metaphors so much more now that I teach AP Literature. This time around it was on audio tape, although a newer version is needed (pops and skips *grr*)
  • A Slight Trick of the Mind (Mr Holmes)–Cullin truly treated Sherlock with dignity and the plot is quite plausible
  • The Bookseller–not a raging favorite read, but the premise is fascinating and a page-flipper
  • My Salinger Year–a lovely memoir of the yesteryear of publishing
  • The Little Prince–so charming, so profoundly simple

Anyone else in the midst of a Reading Challenge?

A Trio of Shakespeare 


Considering I had no exposure or any real knowledge of Shakespeare until I began teaching his works in high school, I’ve certainly made up for lost time.

In the twelve years of morphing from a displaced school librarian to an AP teacher I’ve developed an appreciation for Wm. Sh. to the point of labeling myself a Bardinator. *

“Yo, thou intensely doeth Bard if thy be a Bardinator.” image: flickr.com

Bardinator /n./ a person who goes beyond face value knowledge of Shakespearean works and dives in to study, appreciate, and revel in the works of William Shakespeare to the point of total commitment. Simply put–a dedication to the Bard’s works beyond what is considered sufficiently normal. 

This summer I have reveled in more Bard than usual. It began, appropriately enough on July 4th* when I landed in Washington DC to study Hamlet for a week at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Later that month I finally got around to Anonymous, which is actually anti-Bard, as it is a ridiculous conjecture that William Shakespeare was not a brilliant playwright but actually a drunken sot of an actor fronting for some earl who was a closet playwright. The only takeaway was how stunningly the time period and the theater was portrayed. I squirmed through this insulting and terrible premise to absorb the glory of the Elizabethean stage snippets. One star of note was Mark Rylance. This observation led me to–

Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance in the role of Olivia. Yes, finally. A Shakespearen production as it might have been presented because of the all male cast. The play was filmed at The Globe with a live audience (groundlings included) in sharp, glorious HD. Mark Rylance and his troupe superceded expectations. It was unprecedented theater. I will have problems readjusting to women playing women now in Bard dramas because Shakespeare wrote the parts knowing men/boys would be playing women. Or in the case of Viola/Caesario-, a youth playing a woman disguised as a youth. The lines and meaning take on a whole new dimension with the knowledge it’s two men playing they are attracted to each other but the manly man doesn’t want to admit to it . But thr audience knows the fair youth is really supposed to be a woman since it’s a boy playing a woman dressed as a boy. The confusion is intentional, as is the jovial mistaken engendered double meanings.

“Yonder sun doth the moon, y’all.” Image: YouTube.com

To round out the summer I watched my first ever Shakespeare in the Park or more precisely, on the grass at the local fairgrounds.  A group of thespians out of Montana traversing five states presenting either Cyrano or Taming of the Shrew graced our fare (or fair) town. And what a turn out. Beginning at three o’clock people arrived to claim their patch of grass and browsed the various booths ranging from spun wool goods to sword play. A lively Renaissance trio added appropriate musical ambiance. At six o’clock the western-themed show begun and the audience whistled and hooted out their appreciation at all the puns and ribaldry. The best bit was unplanned when a wee little lass wandered onto the stage at just the moment when Petruchio instructs Kate to speak to the “maiden” (Vincentio).

“Speak to yonder maiden, Kate. Not that one–the other one.”

Not missing a beat, Vincentio grabs up the sweet interloper and announces: “This is my granddaughter” and managed to return her to an embarrassed audience mother.

A truly fun community event to commemorate the closing of summer. Soon I will be bringing Shakespeare to the classroom, but perhaps we’ll Bard out on the lawn. BOOC–bring our own chairs.

Did anyone else have a bit of Bard along with their beach and BBQ days this summer?

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*yes, there is a connection of studying Shakespeare during America’s independence week–Wm. Sh. became our nation’s first playwright when his plays sailed over from England. In fact, the Folger has the first Elizabethean stage. A regular Tudor de force (upon which I played a hammy Horatio).

*I just spent an hour hopscotching about the Net trying to find that nifty definition I stumbled across years ago. No luck. I did find a new blog concerning Shakespeare. I have created my own definition. This will be a work in progress and I am quite open to other interpretations.

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