The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Hamlet’

Fat Hamlet, and Other News

September 22, 2015 | by

Picture this guy, but fatter. Pedro Américo, Hamlet’s Vision, 1893.

  • If you’re like me, you spend most of your free time imagining what Hamlet might look like: the pallid cheeks, the heavy eyelids, the ruminating brow, the svelte silhouette, the dejected posture … But what if he was fat? What if the hero of the greatest tragedy of all time was a portly slob? His own mother believes he is—“He’s fat and scant of breath,” she says to Claudius—and an inspection of Shakespeare’s fat usage provides some troubling evidence.
  • Women read more crime fiction than men, supposedly because they “savor the victim role.” But Vera Caspary, a midcentury crime novelist, did just the opposite: “On the page, Caspary had almost supernatural powers of bemusement; she turned her sorrows into triumphs. She liked to joke about her attractiveness to ‘macaroni salesmen.’ Her husband, whom she met when she was forty, was a movie producer, but she earned more than he did, and he resented it. She tried to ignore his resentment, and corrected people at parties who called her Mrs. Goldsmith.”
  • My grandfather’s favorite place to walk was the mall, and in this he was not alone—shopping centers are apparently “the second most popular venue for walking in the country, just behind neighborhoods.” Mall walkers, or Mall Stars, tend to be older, and they’re admirably immune to the commercial aspects of the space, especially when they walk early in the morning: “Since nothing’s open you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to buy,” one mall walker said. “Plus, all the stores sell clothes for young people.” The Mall of America boasts some 250 Mall Stars. There is something to live for.
  • Fiction in England “flourished for centuries before that of any of its neighbors”; even so, one of its earliest practitioners, Geoffrey of Monmouth, couldn’t bring himself to admit he was making shit up. His History of the Kings of England was full of invented royalty, but “Geoffrey considered himself a historian, and presented himself as such … Even at the time there were people who thought he was taking the mickey; one commentator, Gerald of Wales, remarked that demons would flee when the gospels were read, but flock round to listen to Geoffrey’s fibs (there was, for instance, no ‘Emperor Leo’). Nevertheless, his work was hugely popular, and more than two hundred manuscripts survive.”
  • Now that the scandal surrounding Michael Derrick Hudson and Sherman Alexie has died down, let’s revisit another ruse, from 2012: that time when a guy said he was John Ashbery just because his e-mail address was, and a prominent lit mag believed him.

Secret Erotica, Jane Austen, and Other News

August 13, 2013 | by


Photo Credit Sean Malone

  • A tribute to the Blackwing 602, the favored pencil of many a writer, including Nabokov.
  • The saga of the Jane Austen ring continues! Now, an anonymous donor has given £100,000 to prevent Kelly Clarkson from spiriting the gold and topaz bauble off to America.
  • “All had a little twinkle in their eye that suggested a colorful, lively imagination!” The secret lives of erotica writers
  • The British Library’s Wi-Fi blocks Hamlet on grounds of “violent content,” fixes it.


    To Be or Not To Be? And Other News

    August 8, 2013 | by


  • “I don’t want to kill you”: a summer camp based on The Hunger Games
  • To Be Or Not To Be: That Is the Adventure is, yes, a choose-your-own-adventure take on Hamlet.
  • George Saunders’s much-lauded Syracuse graduation speech is being turned into a book.
  • “What this does is that it immediately puts my writing into the category as a hobby. As in, are you still taking piano lessons, doing macrame, have a parrot? I don’t have a huge ego about my work, but let’s face it, for me it is a job. Yes, for heaven’s sake, I am still writing.” Danielle Steel sounds off


    The Tournament of Literary Friends

    July 29, 2013 | by


    We’re tournament people, my husband and I. The way some people climb rocks or brew beer (I don’t know: What do other people do?), we draw sloppy 64-berth brackets in coffee-stained spiral-bound notebooks then set to vigorous, regimented discussion, rationally whittling down the field until an undisputed champion emerges. Notable competitions past include Most Intriguing City (Helsinki def. Buenos Aires) and Favorite Animal (Polar Bear def. House Cat). Most times, Matt is the tournament master, the committee of one who conceives and presents the field to me, which I then imperiously adjudicate, usually while reclining on a couch or airplane seat and eating something packed with butterfat. It’s a good arrangement, because he is a historian who likes categories and I am a writer who likes making things up.

    For tournament people, the next bracket is always a gift. Matt’s mom visited last month, and she brought with her a 32-person field of literary characters for each of us to complete. Our champions were to be not the greatest or most iconic or most influential figures, but the characters we’d most like to have as friends.

    “Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert?” Claire Messud had recently demanded of Publishers Weekly.

    She had a point. We took Alexander Portnoy instead. Read More »


    Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America

    December 28, 2012 | by

    We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

    I was dragging my five-year-old daughter through the musty stacks of my favorite used bookstore last spring when a middle-aged man, squatting in the Sci-Fi section next to a brimming cardboard box, caught my eye and reminded me of someone.

    “Excuse me,” I asked, “are you a writer?”

    “I am,” he said, standing up and straightening his glasses. His eyes were deep set and hard to read. He was bashful.

    “Are you Michael Dirda?” I asked.

    “I am.”

    It was him: the book critic and author, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, known apocryphally as the best-read man in America, whose essays had enticed me to read everything from Little, Big to Three Men in a Boat—and here he was, squinting his way through the lowest shelves in the same crusty bargain dungeon I came to all the time.

    “Amazing. Nina, this is the man who wrote that little letter that we have in your George and Martha,” I told my daughter. Nina was nonplussed.

    “When I was eight, in 1992,” I explained, “I wrote a letter to the Washington Post when James Marshall died and you printed it in the Book World section and even wrote a sweet little response. And her grandpa put a photocopy of that letter in The Complete George and Martha for her.”

    Read More »


    To Be or Not to Be? And Other News

    November 28, 2012 | by

  • Hamlet, as a choose-your-own adventure.
  • Writer Andrei Codrescu will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” live Q&A on December 6.
  • Small Business Saturday proved a boon for independent bookstores.
  • Literary drinks to get you through NaNoWriMo.
  • C. S. Lewis is getting his own plaque in Westminster Abbey’s famed Poet’s Corner.