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a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Shakespeare”

Review Round Up: March 


Nothing like Spring Break to throw off a blogging routine! Take a little R&R and the regiment of writing piffles away. The excellent part of R&R is the time to read instead of time spent grading essays. While I didn’t get down to business on my own writing as planned, I did get into quite a few great books. Here are the top picks for March.


image: Margaret Atwood.ca

There is a slew of Shakespeare retellings out there, and my request for Margaret Atwood’s Hagseed, her version of The Tempest, finally came through at the library. The basic plot is Felix, a well-known director, whose overly creative approaches to theatre, is ousted by his protege. Seeking exile in a dilapidated farm house, our hero has a rough time of it until he takes a gig at a prison to bring Shakespeare to the inmates. 

While it was difficult to get into the story at first, Atwood’s version of The Tempest won me over once the inmates began acting out the play. Their fresh approach made The Tempest stand up and become more relevant to present day concerns.

All the new revisionments of Shakespeare’s plays tend to be hit or miss in their approach. More misses than hits. Yet, Atwood, being the maestro of imaginative tales herself, gamely applied her own brand of magic to Prospero’s tale and conjured up an agreeable story within a play which plays upon the story.

The best part of her adaptation was having Felix, the artsy, exiled director, explain the play to the inmates. Valuable education stuff. Should I ever choose to teach The Tempest I shall delve into Ms. Atwood’s classroom references.


image: Goodreads.com

I’m not sure how this book got on my TBR list as I shy away from tragedy stories, especially ones about 9/11. And this story had yet another tragedy story woven throughout–the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911. I got over my initial “read or not to read moment” and found myself involved in an amazing story that speaks well towards the gifts of grace, forgiveness, and redemption.

The parallel stories of lost love due to horrendous circumstances is skillfully and eloquently written. Susan Meissner infuses her stories with rich prose and an underlayment of faith that provides a richly satisfying read. The characters transcend their paper boundary and imprint. I looked forward to my reading time and spent most of one Saturday intrigued by Clara’s choices and Taryn’s painful healing. I cried. And laughed. It’s been a while since that’s happened with a book. 

My second book by Meissner. I’ve now loaded her other books on my TBR list. I can take a bit of tragedy in my reading when the story had such a powerful message attached.
image: Goodreads.com
As a sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer, the story continues in following the historical fiction of Shakespeare’s acting troupe. While the action is not as lively as the first book, there is still plenty of intrigue as readers follow Widge’s determination to find his place as a player in the Chamberlin’s Men. The primary audience is middle readers or even young adult, yet I’m always game for a Shakespeare story.

The black plague is a definite presence throughout the story and Blackwood’s attention to detail creates an engaging insightful look into the times of England’s Renaissance.

Bard 400: Shakespeare Club


The continuance of celebrating the 400 year passing of Shakespeare continues–I hope it just keeps continuing.

My mission this month is to convince high school students to join my Students for Shakespeare Club. I’m doing this not only because I want students to know the amazingness of Billy Bard, I’m also promoting the club because I don’t want to lose $400.

You see many years ago a batch of drama students formed the Students for Shakespeare Club so they could perform the Scottish play at the town’s local theatre. It was a success. Money was generated from tickets, the students graduated, and the club somewhat languished until it became the starting point for sponsoring the yearly Shakesperience drama production. Long story short: it’s well known on campus how much I like Shakespeare, so it wasn’t too difficult to convince me to take on the task of scheduling the annual play. So what’s with the $400?

Basically if a club does not use its funds it loses them–they get dispersed to other clubs. At least that’s what I understand. If I can get a few students dropping by my classroom now and then to learn Shakespeare stuff, like stage fighting, tossing out insults, arranging a flash mob, playing around with scenes, I think I’ll be safe.

Here’s my promo for the morning announcements. It was a hit.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_-zu__fglN_dDRZSEhONGdvVkE

At the homecoming carnival I provided the game of “Thou Art” which involved selecting a slip from three available baskets in order to form a personal Shakespearean compliment.  Such as: THOU ART A…

MELTING    TIGER-BOOTED    GODDESS 

It was a hit. As a thanks for playing, participants got Smarties for becoming smarter about the Bard. Candy is always a hit.

I managed to sign up six students. I’m in business. Should I go for  stage fighting for the first meeting? Image result for stage fighting moves

Or a (maybe not so politically charged) flash mob scene?

Tickled With A Really Fun Bard Site


Yes, I’m still talking about the Bard. I’m gearing up to initiate a Shakespeare club at school and I’m getting inspiration from different sites. One of them is Mya Gosling’s Good Tickle Brain, which is an absolutely delightful blog about all things Shakespeare. Most of her work is done in one of those simple, yet hilarious cartoon styles, which, even after given this step-by-step instruction, I still can’t manage. She makes it look so easy. If you love Shakespeare, enjoy a good laugh, like to keep up on the Bard, I suggest checking out Mya and her marvelous Shakespeare stuff:

A Bard In Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush or There’s No Bardness Like Slow Bardness


Shocking. The tremors from the announcement that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be futzing with the Bard are rippling through out various literary communities. It’s one thing to sneak No Fear Shakespeare into the classroom when teaching Hamlet  and company to students, it’s quite another to go to the theater and pay good money to hear modernity instead of Bardinator verse. If you haven’t heard the news, hear it here: Shakespeare is undergoing translation, and yes, I do believe something will be lost along the way.

“I suspect that Shakespeare himself, in his eagerness to reach audiences, would be perplexed by the idea that our job today is to settle for only half understanding his work. Let’s embrace Shakespeare for real and let him speak to us.”

So says Dr. McWhorter who teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy and music at Columbia University.

Just because we haven’t kept up with Old English doesn’t mean it should be changed to meet our needs. There are plenty of analysis experts who have provided handy translations of Shakespeare’s works. We just need to take the time to read them. Or better yet, figure it out on our own. It’s called learning.

What really concerns me is if this could be a trend towards other changes. Sophocles? That old dead writer of Mediterranean vintage who wrote about the son who inadvertently married his mother? Yeah, it’s Greek to me too–better change it up so we can understand his plays. Then there is Emily Dickinson. Dash it all, she really doesn’t understand how to properly use punctuation, better to get grammar check suggestions for her. She’s still in public domain, so she won’t mind. Honestly, if we quietly allow Shakespeare to be mucked about with and don’t fuss about how *presto chango* his beautiful verse and prose gets shazzamed into everyday slings and arrows, then we will surely watch all the old classics become literature lite. Less calories, less filling.

How do you feel about those Oregon Shakespeare folk messing about with Shakespeare?

Here’s the article. Let me know what you think. *grumble grr*

Me thinks it’s piteous to mess with the muse.

image: morguefile/johninportland TRANSLATION: Roses are the prettiest flower out there. Nope, it just don’t float.

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?

—————————-

*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.

2/50: Bloom’s BioCritiques–William Shakespeare


William Shakespeare  Frustrated Harold Bloom. image:meme.com

Harold Bloom knows a lot about literature. I think “intimidated” along with “impressed” are among my reactions to his introduction on William Shakespeare

 

2015 is going to be my Shakesyear, since I have set out a goal to gather research to write about Shakespeare. I’m not sure from what angle I’ll proceed, but I’m looking forward to the process. I do enjoy researching. It’s the doing something with it all that I struggle. I do know I have a daunting task ahead of me. Consider how little we know about him, I realize I’m probably going to be chasing about looking at the same old information presented by different people. Maybe I’ll be fortunate and find two needles in the info haystack…

The first book I’ve come across is a dandy. Harold Bloom, esteemed literary critic, takes on the task on presenting literary biographies of all sorts of famous authors. Although intended for juvenile readers, I found his vocabulary and syntax fairly challenging at times. For instance, what middle schooler would grasp this sentence easily: “I surmise that the egregious interventions by Vencentio and Iago displace the actor’s energies into a new kind of mischief-making, a fresh opening to a subtler playwriting-within-the-play.”

Bloom creates a portrait of Shakespeare through the observations of others including Samuel Johnson and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Considering this volume is under 200 pages, it’s packed with vital insights, including a chronology, works list, and a bibliography, to set me off along the trail in my search for Shakespeare.

Some new-to-me facts about the Bard:

  • he was “fostered” out to another family whose connections might have helped him rise above the failings of his father (which is quite the story in itself)
  • in 1587, when Shakespeare was 23, five theatrical companies visited Stratford and it wasn’t long after that Billy Boy went off to London
  • Hamlet, produced in 1601, was among the first plays the Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed at the Globe theater
  • Shakespeare’s company performed at least twelve plays every year for King James and his court
  • The purchase of the Blackfriars, another theatre, allowed Shakespeare’s acting troupe to perform year round since this was an enclosed theatre, unlike the Globe

I look forward to my discovering of William Shakespeare, and I hope you won’t become bored with my Bardinating over the course of the year.

Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art my balcony?


As a professed Bardinator, I must admit my dismay upon learning some shocking information concerning Shakespeare’s most famous scene from Romeo and Juliet–perchance there was no actual balcony in the balcony scene. I will give you a moment to recover. Basically, this:

Balcony_Scene

image: education portal presents the traditional view

 

is what we have grown accustomed to over our years of study and admiration of this endearing romantic tale of woe, that of Juliet and her Romeo. However, according to The Atlantic, this is more in align to actuality:

image: rapgenius.com presents as Shakespeare liked it

that Juliet, like most Italian girls of her time period, lived protected behind the walls of her father’s villa. Traipsing about on balconies wouldn’t have happened. For one thing, Shakespeare didn’t know what a balcony happened to be, because no balconies existed in England when he wrote R&J.  From the article:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest known use in English of the word “balcone” (as it was then spelled) didn’t occur until 1618, two years after Shakespeare died. Even the concept of a balcony was (literally) foreign to Shakespeare’s British contemporaries.

Why then, do we associate a balcony with our two tragic lovers? Blame it on Thomas Otway, who heavily borrowed  from Shakespeare’s play for his own 1679 play, The History and Fall of Caius Marius. Otway places his lovers on a balcony, a known bit or architecture adornment by then, and somehow over the years when Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet returned to public favor–yes *gasp* it wasn’t always popular, the audience simply filled in the gap and placed Juliet on her own balcony.

You don’t believe me? Here, check out why Sparknotes did with the scene. They have  perpetuated the mistaken notation of balcony traipsing versus window leaning. As for me, I go with the balcony. Window leaning just doesn’t cut it for romance. What do you think?

 

Last Chance Rack Finds


When the progeny were young enough to tote to the grocery store I used to dread the inevitable trial of the checkstand gauntlet: the Last Chance Rack. You know, the racks of candy, toys, geegaws, magazines that all whimper at worn out consumers to be taken home. Their whimpering frequency is especially tuned to children’s ears. “Pluheeze, Mom?” I did have a stock phrase for surviving the ordeal which consisted of “Sorry, I don’t have money for (fill in the blank) today.” No arguing with that. And very true–I tended to stick to the budget because I had to back then.  Actually, I still should as an empty nester. Never mind that.

The Last Chance Rack I refer to today does not promote cavities or wasteful spending. This is a positively good rack in that it promotes reading. This is the LCR of the library. Our library has prominently planted two double-sided racks near the checkout area. They probably meant it as a way to display new titles as a greeting for patrons. On the flip side, the racks serve another purpose, one I think of more significance. While patrons await their turn to check out their basket of literary goodies they  find themselves next to the LCR and can’t help but browse titles.  I usually end up taking home an extra yummy or two.  Who can resist? The books are especially trained to Book Booster frequency.

This last week I went in for my one hold–akin to going in for that one quart of milk. I came out with two extra books.  No complaints about the extra calories needed to read my found treasures.  Thought I would share my finds:

image: amazon.com

 

As a Book Booster it’s difficult to pass up a book about making books. Like any conniseur, I appreciate the art and skill that goes into making something I so regularly consume. The books contained within this palm-sized tome focus on the artisans and their craft. Flipping through the pages and savoring the renderings of featured artists inspire me to try my hand at making my own book or two. There are handy directions included. Sounds like Christmas presents to me…

Another LCR item practically jumped into my arms as I passed the rack. This little goodie knew a Bardinator was in hailing distance. I need to subscribe to the NYT bestseller list. I always hear of these amazing books waaay after they’ve been out and then feel so silly when I find them and gush about them. No wonder I get those looks of–“That was so yesterday’s book.” or “You are just now hearing about that one?” I’m so glad the Book Booster Brigrade is disbanded. I might be in violation of section 31-A (best seller awareness).

Ready for this companion to the NYT bestseller? (just roll your eyes if you are already oh-so-aware of it):

How can you resist a book from a publisher called Quirk Books?(from which this image cometh)

Without slavering too much about how it’s so absolutely genius to mash-up Shakespeare with Star Wars, I will say Ian Doescher manages to pull off the feat of presenting *the best episode* of the Star Wars trilogy in iambic pentameter with dextrous aplomb. Not that I’m an expert at iambic pentameter, but I do appreciate how tough it is to write it. I teach it as the “heartbeat” meter and the students understand that. Shakespeare understood that writing his works in a meter close to the essence of being alive meant his words would be as easy to remember as breathing. Doescher gets that concept too, and understands the devotion of Stars Wars fans. Bringing Shakespeare into our century in a new and absolutely true and original way always gets a round of applause from me. What I really appreciated about Doescher’s mirthful approach is how he skillfully inserted references to the Bard’s other works. Here is my unabashed shopping list of “Where’s Willy?” finds:

  • Leia’s rant about Han’s ego is reminiscent of Beatrice
  • Hamlet’s “A hit! A very palpable hit!” uttered by Luke as they attack AT-ATs
  • C-3PO’s parts with sorrow from his loyal R2-D2 is so R&J
  • As Luke wings his way to learn the ways of the Jedi from Yoda he speaks of the affairs of mean
  • And Leia swoons upon discovering her nice scoundrel kisses by the book–that Han, he’s such a bad boy Romeo

The book trailer is as delightful as the book:

 

 

Anyone else have a library with a tempting Last Chance Rack?  Don’t resist the Force of a good book that needs to go home with you…

Bargain Bin Book Bonazas


At a local warehouse clothing sale I unexpectedly found a tier of gift books.  At a couple of dollars a piece I grabbed up a few.  It proved a difficult choice as they ranged from the secret lives of cats to how to dress cool instead of never cool (I kid you not).  There were also cutesy books like how to enjoy incense and candles.  I passed on those.  A match is all I need to understand those two.  Okay, maybe there are a couple of things I could learn, but when I came across these I couldn’t resist:

1. The Gregg Reference Manual (ninth edition) by William A. Sabin
Of course I already have my Strunk and White, How to Not Write Bad, and various college textbooks sitting on my shelf, yet who can resist a grammar handboook. I can’t. And because I don’t need it I decide to give it to my youngest progeny who admittedly wants to get his there, its, and yours figured out once and for all.

2. Leadership Courage by David Cottrell and Eric Harvey
Definitely a gift book for the youngest because he is into building up a business and is always talking about all these amazing leadership books he’s reading, so he most certainly needs another one.

3. Shakespeare’s Sonnets by William Shakespeare
For  the oldest son, I couldn’t pass up this slim volume of the Bard’s best.  I bought it because every young man who is looking for the perfect soul mate should have at least a couple of sonnets up his sleeve.  He received it graciously, if not warily. I  was amused to overhear him say the line, “Hey, I have a sonnet and I know how to use, so back off.”  I’m pretty sure he was kidding.  A loaded sonnet is nothing to mess with.  I have cautioned him on the power of verse.

4.  How to Say It Style Guide by Rosalie Maggio
Yes, another reference book. With two boyos in business they each need their handy dandy grammer guide.

 

 

Finding books on sale is always a bonus.  And being able to give them away is the best bonus.  Have any of you found any bin bonuses lately?

Oh, all images are from amazon.com.

Adieu, Adieu Sweet Month of Muse


national-poetry-month

I agree with Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” April is a busy, busy month with its heralding of spring, removal of snow tires, paying of taxes, celebrating Billy Bard’s birthday, prepping for AP exams, and musing upon poems. I started loading my April blog calendar back in December as I discovered poems and poets I would pre-schedule them and now the days are spent and I am a bit bereft as I head into May. Whatever shall I fill my May days with?  It is ever so nice to have a theme for a month, like poetry for April. May will probably become my mish-mash month. I have several posties that I’ve been saving that don’t relate to anything except that I like them–sorta serendipity finds.

As I bid adieu to April I shall reflect:

  • Gathering poets for most of the year is akin to Saturday yard sale mornings as I scout for treasures to stuff in my bag
  • I appreciate poetry more and more as I become more and more involved with the reading of it
  • Having Billy Bard’s 450th birthday in the middle of National Poetry Month was absolute icing on the loveliest of cakes
  • Passing out poems to my students on April 24 for National Poem in Your Pocket Day is a blast–reactions range from excited anticipation of reading their poem to leaving them on the floor–which is about par for poetry (love it or leave it)
  • My school superintendent emailed me that I encouraged him to read a sonnet in my postscript to enjoy Shakespeare’s birthday
  • I decorated my hallway in recognition of Shakespeare’s birthday and convinced the journalism department to put it in the school’s daily video. Well, it’s not everyday a person is 450 years old…

 

Displaying photo.JPG

 

I look forward to May. School is winding down, weather is heating up, and the countdown to summer break begins.  Here is to May and all its blooming good days

24112-teacher_at_desk

Waiting out the days of May to slip into June

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