I found out a few weeks ago, also the hardback of his comic Archangel is out, and apparently it also ties into the Peripheral. Hopefully my LCS will have a copy for me this evening…
We should add, that he not only wrote what his royal audience wanted to see, but also what the groundlings who had paid one penny and were standing in the pit wanted to see. And you’d better give those guys what they wanted, or they’d be chucking tomatoes at the actors. Thus, all the fart jokes and the like.
Absolutely. Shakespeare’s language is so very compelling; there’s a reason why, in spite of the difficulties in understanding early modern English (or translations thereof) he is so very present on stages around the world.
At the same time, the performances usually take that into account these days. I’ve been to the Globe with ESL students a few times now, and they always thoroughly enjoy the plays. Last time, we saw Imogen, which was a staging of Cymbeline that took place in the setting of street gangs in modern London. They are very, very good at defining the characters and relating the dialogue in ways that the audience can understand, even if they can’t understand every word. Also, they make sure to make the plays as funny and exciting as they can be.
Yeah, Dickens is very straightforward in his language. Which makes all the more sense when some of what is going on in his novels is actually quite weird and fantastic. Picturing Miss Havisham locked away in her old wedding dress, with her wedding cake…
There’s an essay by John Irving that acknolwedges the debt he owes to Dickens and praises him as the King of Novels, and I think you can very clearly see Irving following Dickens in many ways. There is probably a big influence on many magic-realist writers, really, in the way he wedded the everyday real and the politically real to the magnificently strange.
True. It’s always obvious that he’s making it up as he goes along. You know when you get stuck on how to resolve chapter 10, and you think, ah, I’ll just pretend that guy from chapter 2 happens to be in the right place to help…?
Still present not just on stage but in our every day language. He coined a plethora of phrases and witticisms that we still use today, so interwoven are they that most don’t realize that he’s their originator.
If I recall, Tolstoy’s criticism is that Shakespeare’s work was light, not precisely deep or meaningful. But it’s always going to be the language and the structures, the execution, that pull me along (additionally I think Macbeth is a deeply human piece when staged correctly). I’m not really sure that plays are the best medium for really deep character/‘life’ work anyway; wit, great back and forth, strikes me as their great strength. They require that exaggeration, that caricature to get across human emotion; they lack interiority, they lack the close up.
I’d argue that many of his core themes are still relevant 400 years later (Romeo and Juliet is still played out in every teenage household in the western world, hopefully with less death), and I don’t think you can get much more meaningful than that.
Themes like love? Duty? Family? They’re timeless, and hardly invented by Shakespeare. The depth with which he treated them has never, to my mind, been great. Nor was that his goal or purpose, I don’t think.
It never, on the level of plot, meant much to be as a kid. It was only when I really started looking at the language that the work meant anything to me.
I haven’t read a lot of Tolstoy, but if I recall, he did come across as a bit of a dick (i.e. pretty much explaining what the reader should think about things).
So I would be inclined to take what he says with a grain of salt.
Which goes a little bit back to my original thoughts. That Shakespeare is often approached as and compared to novels (which didn’t even exist back then). I think the best teachers of it understand it’s a theatrical product.
When we read the Malvolio scenes in class in Twelfth Night they aren’t funny, when we saw British comedy acting veteran John Barron walk out in a ridiculous pair of stockings we all laughed. Which is fine as that’s part of the form, written physical comedy is never funny, if a novelist wants to get laughs he needs to use different skills. You are perfectly right that while they were both writers he was never attempting to do what Tolstoy did.
Yep, agreed. I think witty dialogue and word play still reads very well, though. But so much of the intangibles are lost without a physical/visual context.
It’s just a different approach. To be Russian, in czarist Russia, was to live in a very specific context. Much of the world’s great literature has come from Russia for a reason, but it is rarely playful, and there’s a reason for that.
Tolstoy especially came to see himself as a religious figure. He was very much trying to answer the deep existential questions and, first through literature and then through religion, change the world.
They were both writers, but Shakespeare was an artist I think first and foremost. Tolstoy really was something else entirely (neither better or worse, mind)
Absolutely, many novels are very funny but they need to use different techniques.
Went through a long Russian-lit period. Okay, I guess, if anything, Russian lit is long. Liked Dostoevsky and Tolstoy okay. But the one I quite like was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago haunts me. Read a lot of Pushkin - one is required to, you know.
Now, my second Mom (my best friend’s mom, but our families have been together forever) is Russian. Very, very Russian. Figure it this way, her folks arrived in the good old USA in 1917 with a fair amount of funds and promptly forgot about being Russian for a goodly while. I guess many of that lot settled in Ohio because it was slightly nicer than Siberia. My li’l sis has firmly embraced both Irish and Russian heritages (both mostly full) and that has brought out a lot of info and stories over the past two decades. I knew I had a link somewhere, but in my childhood when I spent most of my time there we were just Americans and the Cold War was raging (shaddap - I know) and being Russian was not the preference. Many, many things in that era were “simply not discussed”.
The pity is I did all that in Southern California. The only proper way to read Russian literature is indoors, in a snowstorm, while a bit hungry, while a bit drunk, and absolutely nothing else to do. Then, there is a brilliance not found elsewhere.
I don’t know about that. I think the plays of, say, Chechov or Ibsen are all about deep characters and examining and dissecting relationships . There’s an intimacy to the stage, too, that allows you to get closer to the characters than even in the closest of close-ups.
(Man, this discussion totally belongs in the theatre thread!)
Oh…now we’re getting into theatre versus novels. That deserves a more considered response than I can give right now.
The different media have their own strengths and weaknesses. Theatre is less adept at showing internal life and thoughts than novels (which is why I could never get to grips with directing Stanislavski trained actors…I just found them annoying).
Theatre is a broad church and there are a million different ways of telling a story. Not everything is Shakespeare. Take something like Glengarry Glen Ross for instance. There is a lot of information coming through about the character in the performance, and by listening to what is being said and reading between the lines.
Pick one of the best, eh? Y’see, I think that stage is great for people-driven stuff, while movies are better for event-driven stuff. There’s always big-time crossover, but that’s whenever I hear somebody wanting to “stage” a comics of SF property there’s an immediate gut-check. They do no turn out well. Dancing seems natural on stage, odd in most films. Running is horrid on stage and almost always cool on film (right, Lola?).
I guess my view is to present the material in its best-limned format.
Child of God - Not sure what to make of this other than it’s a beautifully written and moving novel about a deranged man carrying out despicable deeds.
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - Although PKD is one of my favorite authors, I couldn’t get into this book. It’s got a great central idea–a celebrity in a bureaucratic dystopia wakes up to find there’s no longer any record of his existence and no one knows who he is–but it reads as if Dick was making it up as he went along. In fact, there are a ton of misspellings and glaring grammatical errors that make me think this was rushed through both in writing and editing.
It has a mishmash of themes, beginning with general dystopian themes and Dick’s usual paranoia, but then characters start spouting off about love and death and meaning and whether the three can coexist–which is my favorite theme in storytelling, but here it feels tacked on, like PKD decided halfway through the novel he wanted it to be about that. There’s also a creepy section where the main character, of whom the book isn’t very critical, is enamored with a girl he believes is 15 or 16. She ends up being 19, but that she looks younger is what attracts him.
Of the PKD books I’ve read I’d rank them: VALIS, Androids, High Castle, A Scanner Darkly, A Maze of Death, Ubik, Palmer Eldritch, and then this.
The last new fantasy book I tried was Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes. Technically, there was nothing wrong with it. It did belong to the then newer, more brutal fantasy series that followed in the wake of the success of Game of Thrones. So, haven’t really found anything to draw my eye with one exception, which got my eye a few years back.
Turns out there’s a new guy on the scene with a quartet called The Faithful and The Fallen and, more impressively, it completed in November 2016! This is quite unusual now, but I jumped on-board just as the third book came out.
Now, this was not a totally blind gamble - Gwynne was being talked of a successor to the kind of fantasy tales David Gemmell was known for, no small praise that. So, I grabbed a large paperback copy of the first book Malice on the cheap, read the first 50 pages and concluded: Yeah, the Gemmell influence is definitely there. It’s very hard to define fiction by nationality, so let’s go with that American and British written fantasy differs and Gwynne’s felt right, in a British way. (The terms are probably the wrong ones, but the point remains that you can tell where Gwynne is based by his fantasy writing.)
However, with a then incomplete series and who knows when it’d complete, I opted to bag it in large paperback / hardback format and, when complete, read the lot when I had time. Just like I’d planned on a couple of other series too… So what forced my hand? Gwynne’s got a new series starting Jan 2018, a trilogy. So, I really need to see how good this is in order to decide to bag that new hardback.
Turns out it was quite a bit better than good, this guy really knows what he’s doing.
One of the things that stood out is that he finely balanced the brutality and realism - this is not a romanticised fantasy, but neither is it a depressing pit of bleak awfulness. The other trick he pulled off was in killing off characters in ways that never felt excessively cruel or unfair, in a story sense, he managed to achieve a sense of things just happening and the reader never got tipped off to what was coming. In a way, it matches both Martin and Erikson, but Gwynne makes you care about his characters more effectively.
All the usual ingredients of fantasy are here, but Gwynne’s brewing them up quite differently, which says to me the way the rest of the series will play out will have more than a few surprises.
Talking of which, I’ll be starting on book two tomorrow, Valour…
I’m reading the Bible.
It annoys me that I never read the whole thing, don’t know if I will make it this time…I alternate between the books that are pleasant to read (the gospels contain some gems, the Pauline epistles, Job, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Genesis I all enjoyed reading ) with the ones that are more of a slog to get through.
I’m still working on Stephen King’s “IT.” I listen to the audiobook during my commute to work. Soon as I’m done with that, I have “Salem’s Lot.” Then I’m going to finish KJ Charles’ “Sins of the City” Victorian M/M romance trilogy for something much lighter.