“Shadow Show”

Simak, Clifford. “Shadow Show.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The show of life must go on, even though one of the key actors has passed away. Bayard Lodge, Chief of Life Team 3 with psychologist Kent Forester, must figure out how to keep their play going. Much back and forth debate is given to the question of who did the dead man embody? What was his part? Just who would be missing from the group? Unfortunately, the end was predictable but it was entertaining read all the same.

Author fact: Simak won awards for his short stories but none for the ones I am reading for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe is a very thematic book.

Nancy said: Pearl considers “Shadow Show” one of Simak’s best and shouldn’t be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Medea

Euripides, Michael Collier, and Goergia Macherner, 2006. Medea. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. eBook Collection: EbscoHost (accessed 5/16/18/2018).

Reason read: June is the first time the weather is really nice enough to get on the water. Medea uses the ocean in a rather cruel fashion…

The things women will do for love. The things men will do for greed. Medea’s father, King Aeetes had possession of the Golden Fleece. Jason of the Argonauts wanted it. Medea, seduced by Jason, went to great lengths to prove her love. How else to explain murdering her own brother and scattering his body parts over the ocean; making her father slow his fleet to collect them for burial? How else to explain getting Jason’s cousins to poison their father in an effort to bring back his youth? In the end, Jason marries a different princess because Medea is too dangerous. Go figure. Medea starts with Medea seeking revenge. Next on her killing list is Jason’s new wife, Glauce. She gets even more evil from there. She would make a good candidate for that Deadly Women show…

Author fact: If you have ever seen the statue of Euripides in the Louvre, you know he had some killer abs.

Nancy said: Nancy said Medea was one of the four Greek plays you definitely didn’t want to miss (p 11).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Alpha, Beta, Gammas of Greece” (p 9).


Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


Two Plays and a Premise

Dennis, Nigel. Two Plays and a Premise: Cards of Identity and The Making of Moo. New York: The Vanguard Press, 1958.

Reason read: March is National Read month. I’m reading this just because.

The entire story centers around the Identity Club, a group of psychoanalysts who come together once a year to discuss phony identity cases which don’t involve real patients. At the same time, the local townspeople are being brainwashed into believing they are servants for the psychologists. They lose their identities in order to serve the whims of the shrinks. The end of the story, which I never got to, involves a Shakespearean play. For me, the plot disintegrated midway through the story and I gave up. It started off great. The slow brain washing was sinister in places. Miss Paradise’s brother goes missing and she doesn’t recognize him as the therapists’s servant. Or calling the doctor by different names in order to confuse him. Both scenarios were funny and evil and brilliant.

Confessional: I was supposed to read the full length novel of the same title but I ordered the play instead. By the time I noticed my mistake it was too late. I never would have been able to finish the 300+ page novel in time so I stuck with the play.

Line I liked, “Many a man’s life has been thrown away through the mumbling of his survivors” (p 61).

Author fact: Nigel wrote a smattering of other books but this is the only one I am supposed to read for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Card of Identity is both a novel and a play. For the latter it becomes a play within a play.

Nancy said: Nancy listed Cards of Identity as one of her faves (p 33).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the odd chapter called “The Book Lust of Others” (p 33). Cards of Identity was discovered in Writer’s Choice: A Library of Rediscoveries compiled by Linda Sternberg Katz and Bill Katz.


King Lear

Shakespeare, William. “King Lear.” The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974. 1249-1305

Reason read:Billy the Bard was born in April.

I think I have had to read King Lear half a dozen times in my academic career. It keeps coming back. It is interesting to note that this time I didn’t read it as a Pearl pick, but rather as a Pearl comparison. King Lear is compared to a Jane Smiley novel in More Book Lust in the chapter, “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Iowa) (p 27).

So, back to Mr. Shakespeare and his brilliant tragedy. To sum up the play in one sentence: this is the story of a king seeking to divide his kingdom among his three daughters based on who could articulate her love for him the best. Beyond that it is the tragedy of emotional greed – of wanting to be loved at any cost. It is the tragedy of politics and family dynamics. Youngest daughter Cordelia is unwilling to conform to her father’s wishes of exaggerated devotion. Isn’t the last born always the rebel in the family? As a result Cordelia’s portion of the kingdom is divided among her two sisters, Goneril and Regan. The story goes on to ooze betrayal and madness. Lear is trapped by his own ego and made foolish by his hubris.

Author trivia: it makes me giggle to think that Shakespeare was married to a woman named Anne Hathaway, only not that Anne Hathaway.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called (as mentioned before), “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest (Iowa)” (p 27).


Oedipus the King

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1954.

Okay. Raise your hands. Who had to read Oedipus in high school? Who had the name come up in at least one college psychology course? Better yet, who acted out the play at any time in their life? I’m guessing most people are not strangers to the story: Mythological king is destined to kill his father and marry his mother. End. Of. Story. That’s the gist of it anyway. There are many different versions out there, depending on which translation you read. MY take-away is this, if it was meant to happen, it will happen. There is no getting out of it. You can twist fate by taking someone else’s fortune cookie, but the right words are destined to find you. So, even though everyone knew the prophesy and tried to avoid the disaster, Oedipus still managed to come across his father, have an altercation, kill him and end up marrying the widow…his own mother. Like I said, you can’t sidestep what will be.

Confessional: Freud ruined this for me. Whenever I hear the name Oedipus I think “complex” and not “ancient Greek trilogy.”

Reason read: May is the best time to visit Greece.

Author fact: Sophocles was one of three Greek tragedians.

Book Play trivia: There’s a lot of music in Oedipus.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Alpha, Beta, Gammas of Greece” (p 11).


White Devil

Webster, John. The White Devil. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.

I have to admit, anything written in the early 1600s is a chore to read. Especially if there isn’t a 19th or 20th century translation around. The White Devil was no exception to this belief. I found it tedious and tough. Three words: Bored. To. Tears. I’m sure the plot was racy in it’s day but I couldn’t get beyond the language. There is rumors of adultery, exile, fake deaths, corruption and family drama.

Reason read: with all of its revenge and corruption it should be perfect for Halloween. I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t finish it.

Author fact: John Webster was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. I have to wonder what their conversations would have sounded like. Competitive?

Book Play trivia: when this was first introduced to the English public it bombed. Webster blamed it on the weather because turnout was low. However, in more recent years it has been reintroduced and adapted.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 216). Pearl lumps The White Devil in the horror category but I wouldn’t know. It’s definitely a tragedy, but not I’m not sure about horror.


May 2011 was…

May was a month of deja vu. The Just Cause walk. Wanting to go home. Same old, same old. Nearly everything I read this month reminded me of something else I have already read. Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann reminded me of The Defiant Hero by the same author was the most obvious because the plot and characters were very similar. Almost too similar. To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite reminded me of Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell. They had similar plot lines: taking on a difficult classroom of students as a new teacher. Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham reminded me of Where the Pavement Ends by Erika Warmbrunn. Two stories about traveling through difficult, foreign terrain by bicycle.

So, here’s the list:

  • To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Education Month. This was a really quick (but good) read. Read in one day.
  • Catfish and Mandala: a Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of May’s Memorial Day. This was probably my favorite book on the list.
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month. I have mixed feelings about this book (as my review pointed out). Read in one day.
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of May being Graphic Novel month. This was super hard to “read.” Read in one day.
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece. I keep forgetting this plot so it was good to read it again. Read in one day.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor of Asian-American Heritage month. Read over a weekend. This was one of my favorites.
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month. This was an audio book and very different than everything else I have listened to so far.
  • Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand ~ in honor of the Kentucky Derby.
  • The Dean’s List by Jon Hassler ~ in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May. This reminded me a little too much of my own work place!
  • A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters From the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward edited by Isaac Metzker. Read in two days.
  • City of Light by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of history month. Interesting story about Niagara Falls and the advancement of electricity at the turn of the century.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Iran. This was amazing. Can’t wait for part II. 
  • Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman ~ in honor of Prayer Day being the first Thursday in May. This was a fun murder mystery. Read in one car ride home.

I didn’t get to three books on my orginal list: China, To Me, House on the Lagoon, and, Art and Madness. I forgot to pack them and ended up finding Persepolis and Friday the Rabbi Slept Late at home.

May was also the month for crazy travel. I slept no more than two nights at a time in Bolton, Concord, Boston, Chicopee, Peaks Island, Rockland and Monhegan all in eleven days time. I took two boats, one bus and three different cars. Walked over 75 miles. Saw family. Saw friends. Breathed in the woods. Inhaled the ocean. I enjoyed every second of it.


Antigone

Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by Elizabeth Wycoff. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954.

The Cliff/Spark version of Antigone is this: Two sisters want to bury their dead brother. One wants to bury him admirably and the other doesn’t want to break the law. The brother in question cannot be buried because he was executed for a crime and must be left to rot in the courtyard as an example for the community. Defiant sister must go against the king alone as everyone who is anybody refuses to help her. True to Greek tragedy nearly everyone, including the king’s wife ends up committing suicide. The end.

Of course there is much, much more to the story and, depending on which version you read, you get it. In my version of Antigone translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff the language is watered down and somewhat pedestrian. It’s not as lyrical as other translations. A small example: from a 1906 Oxford Clarendon Press version (translated by Robert Whitelaw): “Ismene: There’s trouble in thy looks, thy tidings tell” compared with the 1954 University of Chicago Press version (translated by Elizabeth Wycoff): “Ismene: What is it? Clearly some news has clouded you” (p 159). Ismene is basically saying the same thing in each line, but the Whitelaw version has more animation, more movement. In the end Antigone is a simple story about the man against The Man, no matter how you read it.

Note: I’m note sure how many other versions have this, but I appreciated the biography of Socrates in my version.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Alpha, Beta Gammas of Greece” (p 9).


Skin of Our Teeth

Wilder, Thornton. “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Collected Plays and Writings on Theater. McClatchy, J.D., ed. New York: Library of America, 2007.

Considering our own impending “end of the world” in 2012 I thought this was a fitting way to end April’s reading. Indeed, the working title of “The Skin of Our Teeth” was “The Ends of the Worlds.” But, the end of Wilder’s world is the threat of an ice age coming down from the chilly Canadian north (at the end of Act I). In fact, the entire play takes on a chronological time warp through Biblical, prehistoric and postwar environments. George and Maggie Antrobus, their children and house maid are the central characters of this play within a play. While the Antrobus characters remain constant, the house maid, Sabina does not. It is interesting to note that for the first and third acts she remains their maid and yet in the second act she is a femme fatale of sorts. Another inconsistent is the time line. Periods in history are jumbled together and stretched apart. Characters like Homer and Moses come to visit. A mammoth and dinosaur are the family pets. In the end the punchline is Mr. Antrobus, turning the fate of life over to us, the audience of this play within a play.

Play Trivia: “Skin of Our Teeth” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1943.

Author Fact: Wilder has a connection to this area. Two of his sisters attended Mount Holyoke College. Okay, so that wasn’t really about Thornton. Here’s something – Thornton Wilder was born on April 17th, 1897. Growing up, Thornton was ridiculed for his intelligence. Sad.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Oh, Brother” (p 180). This is a little deceiving because “Skin of Our Teeth” isn’t really about brothers, per se. The plot is Biblical, with some Adam & Eve and Cain & Esau elements, but not really about two brothers.


May 2011 is…

THE LIST:

  • To Sir with Love by Edward Ricardo Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Teacher Day (May 3rd)
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of graphic novel month
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor Asian-American Heritage month
  • Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of Memorial Day
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month (I’ll explain that connection within the review). I’m listening to this as a training book.
  • House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre ~ in honor of May 5th being Cinco de Mayo
  • City of Light ~ by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of May being History Month

Lastly, for the Early Review program for LibraryThing – Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe.

I put so many books on my list because a) a few of them are really, really short so I know I can read I can read them in 1-2 days time and b) I don’t have plans to travel anywhere until May 20th so I should have more time to curl up with several good books, and c) AFTER the walk I have ten days of NOTHING to do. I am picturing myself on the back deck, a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in another.

Confession – Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham looked so good I started reading it on April 28th. Sue me.
May is also (finally) the Just ‘Cause walk. I am not confident I did everything to train (but then again, there is only so much walking one can do), and I know I didn’t fund raise as hard as I should/could have. I am $100 off from the amount I raised last year. I am guessing not asking aunts, uncles, cousins, (mother), grandparents….anyone from my mother’s side to donate played a big part. C’est la vie. Or, to quote mom, “whatever.”