Posts Tagged ‘literature’
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Yes, that’s right, Hugh Laurie the brilliant man who played the totally flawed man Doctor House. Reasonably well written but I’m struggling to remember anything special about it. It’s about a man who’s hired to kill someone but renegs on the deal, naturally this gets him into trouble.
Vet in a Spin by James Herriot
One in the fabulous series of All Creatures Great and Small. In this book James Herriot has joined the Airforce during the war, it details some of his interactions with his fellow trainees and some reminiscences. Needless to say this is as good as all the other books. I enjoyed his encounters with the dentist.
Doctor in the Nest by Richard Gordon
Do not read this book, repeat, do not read this book. It will result in hilarity and I will not be responsible for the results. The operating theatre ceiling falls in on Sir Lancelot Spratt, he is embroiled in politics to save the hospital while being attacked by two females intent on being the only female in his life.
Last night I came across this article which had me intrigued. It talks about writing professors being partial to literature and against science fiction. The comments are even more interesting as some of them show not all professors are against science fiction. And this morning I was directed to this letter from Daniel Abraham, a genre writer.
It’s very interesting how so many literature writers, readers and reviewers still look down on genre books, books written in a particular genre such as science fiction or fantasy and it doesn’t really make much sense as some of these genre books are much better than some literature books. They make a lot more sense, are easier to read and have messages inside them which are the equal of literature.
Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series have distinct messages about women and their strength and show women to be extremely capable of thought and action. Many of the women in Pern are capable and run things quite nicely while in literature such as Bleak House the women are depicted as being rather silly and pandering to the men. I know Bleak House is based on people Dickens knew but surely he knew more capable women than that, there’s only a couple of decent women in it, most of them are silly and fluffy and only do what they’re told.
There are many examples of messages about society within the pages of genre books. Take Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. Both of these genre books take society into the future and show us what it could be like. Literature readers will often read these books and tell us they transcend genre, they mean this in a derogatory fashion but it’s not really because they’re using the wrong words, they mean they cross the borders between genres. These books are science fiction and literature together, what I’m really saying is that literature is a genre so the idea of calling a book a ‘genre’ book is actually really silly.
When deciding which category to put books into on this website I often just take the most well known category, so Anne McCaffrey’s books could go into science fiction or fantasy. I tend to think her Pern novels are more fantasy but as there is a lot of genetic engineering in some of them and that then filters through to all of them they could easily go in science fiction. If I had a category for women’s fiction I’d put them there as well, but that assumes I’m classing strong women as women’s fiction. Women’s fiction could be chick lit or romance but that’s just silly as I know men who happily read both chick lit or romance and I don’t read either if I can help it. Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire could be classed as horror or fantasy due to the vampires but there’s also a deep love element in there so could be slotted into romance, it also has a fair amount of philosophy so maybe I could stretch a point and file it under philosophy.
Anyway, I think I’m confused. I’m just going to finish by mentioning my English Literature teacher from last year who is partial to vampire fiction and even likes Twilight – I do hope no-one tries to categorise that as literature, maybe we could start a new category called Sparkly!
Definitely, poor Yorick, it’s a fairly well known line from Hamlet and often misquoted. This doesn’t mean I’m reviewing Hamlet, far from it. I am going to make quick mention of the storyline and then talk a little about the numerous essays and creative responses that I’ve had to read as part of my studies.
One of the problems I have with Hamlet is that it’s supposedly set in Denmark but it has English values and thoughts in it. I know this is because Shakespeare was not widely travelled and didn’t know a great deal about other countries. He was widely educated about legends and used them in his stories, but he very loosely based them in Denmark or Verona or wherever while overlaying English society into the play. That worries me.
Hamlet’s father dies and his mother marries his uncle within a couple of months. Not too good you reckon? I quite agree, Hamlet’s father was the king of Denmark and although it was an elected position, if Hamlet had been in Denmark at the time then there’s a fair chance he’d have been elected. Fat chance he has now, then to add insult to injury a ghost appears claiming to be his father and tells Hamlet he was really murdered by his brother. Awesome work, now he just has to unmask his uncle, Claudius, then kill him and then take over the crown. Doesn’t happen, he manages to unmask Claudius just at the very end and kill him but everyone else dies too and he recommends Fortinbras, the nephew of the king of Norway, take over the throne with his dying breath. There you go, how’s that for spoilers?
The play is a very complex one, I’ve simplified it substantially and put in some of the interpretation I feel necessary to make sense of the whole thing. Freud would most likely have words to say about the whole ‘mother issue’ Hamlet seems to have and so many other people have had their say. The overwhelming thread that comes through all these pieces of writing is that they’re looking from the point of view of their training. Freud…no, I’ve already mentioned Freud. Asimov wrote a very sensible piece which detailed the entire play complete with history attached and with the political ramifications fully intact making it really easy to put the play in context.
A 19th Century piece of prose by someone called Fox was very nice. We were told to be aware of when it was written and how that would colour the thinking. I bore that in mind and just enjoyed the turn of phrase. Ann Blake gave us an essay on Hamlet’s state of mind. Sue Tweg wrote A Dream of Passion which brings in Shakespeare’s contemporary, Ben Jonson, and also Mona Lisa. Jan Fox discusses the many soliloquies by Hamlet in Now I am alone…, it’s not terribly long considering Hamlet has so many soliloquies. In Graeme Henry’s essay, The poison of deep grief he talks about how ingrained into society Hamlet is.
Hamlet: Dying as an Art by Fintan O’Toole is a lovely article on the character of Hamlet and why he’s never going to do what he needs to do. I have one page full of paragraphs from different people including: Coleridge (1818), A. C. Bradley (1904), T. S. Eliot (1919) and G. Wilson Knight (1930).
Blood and Madness by Bob Carr
Hamlet from Shakespeare’s Language by Frank Kermode
Essays and Soliloquies from A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro
Hamlet Returns from What Happens in “Hamlet” by John Dover Wilson
Hamlet from The Romantics on Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum
Cross Cultural Reflections on Mortality: Hamlet and Chuang Tzu by F. Gonzalez Crussi
Word-games and Hamlet by David Crystal
An interesting essay by Carolyn Heilbrun gives a different view of Hamlet’s mother. Most people look on her as being ineffective and brainless, Heilbrun details how astute she feels Gertude really was and why. Edith Sitwell wrote a few ‘notes’ on Hamlet, she felt she was unworthy to write on this topic and so only wrote a few notes.
I really enjoyed some of these. Clive James wrote a poem called Angels over Elsinore which I found rather interesting as it’s been written in fairly modern language but you can see the style of Shakespeare and he’s referenced Hamlet a number of times using some of Shakespeare’s phrases.
The one I enjoyed the most was written by Margaret Attwood, called Gertrude Talks Back it’s written from Gertrude’s point of view and basically tells Hamlet to stop agonising over what to do and to go away. Awesome stuff!
I also enjoyed John Updike’s take on Hamlet with Gertrude and Claudius. A very nice little story from Gertrude and Claudius’ point of view giving us a great deal of probable background into their relationship before Hamlet senior’s death. Most enjoyable.
The one I didn’t enjoy was not given to me as homework but recommended by my eldest. Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde is the fourth book in the Thursday Next series, it was interesting to read how he took the popular line with Hamlet’s character. I’ll scribble a few more words about this another time.
Other creative responses included are:
Wife to Horatio by Jennifer Strauss
An Island Cemetery by W. H. Auden
Hamlet in the movies
Having read over 200 pages about Hamlet I feel I would be forgiven for not having read the play as there’s enough in all of that to detail the play in it’s entirety. I have not cheated, I have read the play and also watched the entire three hour film by the Royal Shakespeare Company with David Tennant in the lead role and also watched a good deal of the four hour film by Kenneth Brannagh with himself in the lead role. I like different things from the films, Tennant was good but I preferred Derek Jacobi in the role of Claudius. I’ll just digress briefly, it’s interesting how Derek Jacobi has played two different people by the name of Claudius, he’s done both of them very nicely.
We were shown one scene from a Russian version by Grigori Kozintsev produced in 1964. I would very much like to see more of it as it had the atmosphere that matched how I viewed the play. Hamlet has been produced so many different times including the one in 1948 with Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud produced the play on stage in 1964.
With 1,000+ words this article could only ever be a summary and I’ve really only skimmed the surface of the essays and creative responses I’ve read. Hamlet is so complex and so widely studied I suggest it’s impossible to do more than summarise a handful of them in such a short post. I have tried to at least list the names of the article and the author.
Found a treasure yesterday, I didn’t realise what sort of treasure until I looked at it just now.
As you might be vaguely aware by now I’m studying Year 12 English Literature and we’re looking at Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I’m aware that Dickens is considered one of the greats of English literature, I didn’t realise he was also considered great by the Italians. The book is one in a series of four about The Giants of Literature. This one is about Dickens but the dustjacket also mentions Shakespeare, Kipling and Milton. I just assumed they were written and published in England, when I looked at the copyright information I found I was much mistaken. Originally published in 1968 by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milan this copy is the English Language Edition published in 1977 by Sampson Low.It starts off with a page written by Dickens including quotes from letters. It’s going to make interesting reading and I hope it helps with my end of year exam. It’s not worth a great deal of money and that’s not really important to me as I do intend to keep it on my bookshelf as a reference.
The bit that really gets me and is something I don’t know how to research is that this looks as if the Italians think these four writers are better than Italian writers, or French writers, or Spanish writers or…you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I think three of them are three of the Greats of English Literature, I can’t talk about Milton as I’ve never read his works but I’m sure you’ll find authors in other languages who are just as great.
This is the book review you get when you’re not getting a book review. Why do I say that? I don’t plan on writing much about the actual contents of the book as it’s rather more spicy than my G rating allows.
Fanny Hill is rather salacious and was very controversial in it’s day. I picked it up out of curiosity and was rather surprised to find it was originally published in 1749, I didn’t think this sort of book would have been allowed in those days. They were rather sedate days and any behaviour that was considered incorrect was kept totally under wraps. Fanny’s behaviour was so out of place with those times that I suspect this book would not have been read openly.
Being written in 1749 I find the language and writing style very different to books written now. There are many words with the ‘ed’ ending which have the ‘e’ apostrophed out i.e. garnished is spelled garnish’d, showed is spelled show’d.
The sentences are more flowery and sedate than those written now. Here’s an excerpt of one sentence. “…but I had with the utmost art and address, on various pretexts, eluded their pursuit, without giving them cause to complain; and this reserve I used neither out of dislike of them, or disgust of the thing.” You have this partial sentence which very gently tells the reader that Fanny has turned the men down and not ‘done the deed’ with them without telling a child anything at all. You really have to understand adult stuff in order to understand the sentence. I’m not saying this is a book you can give to a child, it’s still not recommended but should they stumble upon it then it’s not as challenging to explain as a modern erotica would be.
Here’s another paragraph. “But I was, as it seems, fated to be my own caterer in this, as I had been in my first trial of the market.” This is such a gentle sentence and so different to those written nowadays. Here’s a sentence from a short story in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #48, called Radioactive Gumshoe Blues by Jamie Shanks. “I put my shoulder to the door at high velocity, and in we crashed…”. In both sentences the protagonist has been very active in their job of choice but in Fanny Hill it is very gentle and in a rather roundabout way, whereas in Radioactive Gumshoe Blues it is very straightforward and blunt.
There are exceptions to all of this as some modern people do write more like John Cleland, but writing styles to change over the years and we do have a more confrontationist and blunt writing style now than they did back then.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is one of those iconic books, everyone seems to have heard of it and knows the story. I’ve known of it since I was very young and I’ve also known some vague details of the story such as how the picture ages but the person never does, the funny thing is I’ve never actually read it. It’s one of those stories that has to be on my To Be Read Pile…eventually.
There have been a number of movie adaptations stretching back to 1915 made in various countries. Some of them use the word Portrait instead of Picture. In doing some research I came across a picture of Oscar Wilde and noted he looks very much like Stephen Fry who just happened to play Wilde on TV a few years ago.
Tony Martin was born in Te Kuiti, New Zealand but I promise I won’t hold that against him. This book is a collection of stories from his childhood and told with an eye to humour. I’m not going to make light of his childhood as some of it can’t have been fun but it’s just the way he tells it, he just makes the experiences funny.
I do like Martin, I’ve been watching him on television for years and have always enjoyed his work. It makes it hard to review this book as I can’t tell whether I like the book or the man. Yes, the writing is good and he has a great turn of phrase that makes me tingle with pleasure. One of the chapters that had me laughing with pleasure was when he and some friends decided they should be The Three Investigators. I read the books at the same time as they did and got the same pleasure from them. They liked the same things about the books, such as their headquarters, as I did.
His descriptions of people and situations are such that I can almost see them; in some cases I can, such as when he mentions Milford Sound, a place I visited in 1978, a most beautiful place. It was such a delight to see his aunt and find out about his grandparents when he visited Te Kuiti as an adult; having spent a number of years in Australia, and to see her character.
Anyone who likes The Three Investigators must be good.
The occasional swear word
We do see a young boy growing up and hoping to go through puberty and experience what other young boys experience at this time.
Janet Frame was a New Zealand author and is also wrote An Angel at My Table which was adapted into film by Jane Campion.
Owls Do Cry is about the Withers family. They are a troubled lot. Toby has epilepsy, Francie dies from burns just as she is old enough to work and help the family finances. Daphne ended up in a mental hospital and was administered electroconvulsive therapy many times while Chicks ended up moving away when she got married.
Janet Frame is a very talented author. In this book she has written about thigns she knows intimately. She spent some time in a mental hospital in New Zealand an experienced electroconvulsive therapy first hand. The passage written from Daphne’s point of view about her time in the hospital and when she experienced the electroconvulsive therapy was particularly moving. It was disjointed and dreamlike as I imagine the time must have felt like to actually experience.
Her brother, George, had epilepsy so when she spoke about Toby’s fits she knew exactly what she was talking about. She must have helped him so many times she could have written about it blindfold.
Frame wrote very carefully about Francie and her death. It had me in shock and tears. It set the scene about how fragile the family finances were and what they needed to do in order to survive. It showed how important equipment, such as a bicycle, was to the family. It would ensure Francie would be able to get to work and contribute to the family finances which was very important to pay the bills. Toby’s medical bills were quite high and mentioned a couple of times. It also showed how she died from a child’s point of view and we have to fill in the gaps ourselves of what they didn’t see.
I don’t think I can give proper warnings about the book. Frame is a graphic author, not just with her words, but also with her presentation. The word and the concepts are hard enough to cope with but add in the layout of the book and the whole thing is very stark. Having said that though, she is a very important author to read, just be prepared for the emotional baggage that comes with it. I can’t recommend her enough so I’ll use the quote from the back of the book by Patrick White as that seems to do the trick:
“Janet Frame seems to me the most considerable New Zealand novelist yet. Her innocent eye can show one the commonest object for the first time, her sensibility can convey, and has perhaps experience, the bloodiest tortures of the mind.”
This copy is now for sale on the Suz’s Space website.