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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

Shakespeare, Heartthrob

April 23, 2014 | by

Reclaiming the Bard for the common man.

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Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus in Josie Rourke’s production at Donmar Warehouse.

There was a time when attending a motion picture was not an occasion but an event. Most of the great movie houses that might remind us—the Roxy in Times Square, Fox Theater in San Francisco, the Loews Palace in DC—are long gone, but the Music Box remains. A local landmark on Chicago’s North Side, the theater still has its Austrian curtains, house organ, and even a hoary legend: the ghost of Whitey, the house manager who ran the theater from opening night in 1929 until Thanksgiving eve, 1977, when he lay down for a cat nap and passed away in the lobby.

The Music Box is an 800-seat theater, more than three times the size of Donmar Warehouse, another theater nearly four thousand miles away in London. What brought the two houses together was Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. A recent performance at the Donmar was beamed live, and later rerun, to cinemas all over the world as part of Britain’s National Theater Live series. It was the first time the Music Box telecasted a production that completely sold out.

In Shakespeare’s canon, Coriolanus sits somewhere between rarely remembered plays like Pericles and Two Gentlemen of Verona and stock selections like King Lear and Romeo and Juliet. A story of pride and political intrigue plucked from Plutarch’s Lives, the play is a little like an olive: a bitter fruit from Rome and something of an acquired taste. Its title character is one of Shakespeare’s great creations—for an accomplished actor, a role almost as inevitable as Iago or Macbeth. T.S. Eliot called the play “Shakespeare’s most assured artistic success;” he admired it so much he wrote two “Coriolan” poems with an eye toward an unfinished tetralogy.

It’s unlikely enough that an art-house movie theater would sell so many tickets to a telecast of Coriolanus—but I should add that this was a morning matinee in Chicago on a frigid Sunday in February. When I arrived, then, I wasn’t exactly worried about finding a place to sit—but I was bewildered to discover a packed house where I expected an acre of open seats. Read More »

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The Cosmonaut Survival Kit, and Other News

April 22, 2014 | by

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Почтовая марка СССР, 1980. Интеркосмос

  • Have booksellers discovered Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary?
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder collaborated with her daughter on many books in the Little House on the Prairie series, and it wasn’t always a cooperative arrangement. A letter from 1938 suggests the scope of their creative frictions: “Here you have a young girl,” Wilder’s daughter wrote to her about one character, “a girl twelve years old, who’s led a rather isolated life with father, mother, sisters in the country, and you can not have her suddenly acting like a slum child who has protected her virginity from street gangs since she was seven or eight.”
  • What was in your average Soviet cosmonaut’s survival kit circa 1968? Among other specialties: three balaclavas, a tripartite rifle/shotgun/flare-gun, and a pistol intended to frighten “wolves, bears, tigers, etc.” in the event of a crash landing.
  • A new app called Cloak helps you “avoid exes, co-workers, that guy who likes to stop and chat—anyone you’d rather not run into.” Which makes life a bit more miserable, it turns out: “‘All Clear: There’s nobody nearby’ reads like such a strange, sad message, such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments. Looking at that screen makes me want to place my phone face down on my desk, go out into the street, and walk around until I bump into someone I know.”
  • Christian Montenegro, an Argentinean illustrator, makes arresting drawings that look like eclectic contemporary woodcuts.

 

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Hoarding Shakespeare, and Other News

April 17, 2014 | by

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps lived like a tramp, but he had a huge collection of "Shakespearean rarities." Photo via the Guardian

  • On Vijay Seshadri, the poet who won this year’s Pulitzer: “The combination of epic sweep … and piercing, evocative detail is characteristic of the contribution Seshadri has made to the American canon.”
  • Next week at Lincoln Center, Rachel Kushner introduces Anna, a seventies documentary that will be familiar to readers of The Flamethrowers: it “centers on the titular pregnant, homeless sixteen-year-old whom the filmmakers discovered in Rome’s Piazza Navona.”
  • “In a small series of sheds in Sussex a nineteenth-century joker and eccentric hoarded the evidence that reconciles Shakespeare the playwright with Shakespeare the man.”
  • Heaven Is for Real “is based on the mega-bestseller by a pastor whose four-year-old had major surgery, after which he knew things he couldn’t possibly have known, and also claimed to have met Jesus … The intended audience appears to be people in medically induced comas who enjoy Nebraska-themed screensavers and who think that Michael Landon had a little too much ‘bad boy edge’ on Highway to Heaven.”
  • What’s this? Just the average story of a doctor-buccaneer who lived among the natives of Panama in the seventeenth century: “It took almost an hour for his shipmates to recognize him. Then one started backwards in shock. ‘Why! Here’s our doctor!’ the man cried, and a crowd gathered around him, trying to rub off the geometric paint that obscured his features. It was Lionel Wafer, the pirate surgeon.”
  • In 1951, when the sociologist C. Wright Mills published White Collar: The American Middle Classes, “an entire society was being white-collarized. Status and prestige, emotional games and office politics: These were leaking out of the workplace and into the world, coloring the entire way people interacted and organized their time and leisure. The frankly confrontational style of blue-collar work and industrial unions was disappearing.”

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The Circus Is Brighter in Poland, and Other News

April 1, 2014 | by

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“Cyrk” poster, designed by Lech Majewski, Poland, 1973.

  • D. H. Lawrence’s hometown has opened a new pub called the Lady Chatterley.
  • An enterprising fourteen-year-old has an urgent message for the government: change your official typeface to Garamond and you’ll save millions.
  • Shakespeare plays illustrated in three easy panels. (“Three witches tell Macbeth he will be king. Macbeth kills lots of people in order to be king. Macbeth is killed.”)
  • Taking stock of Monocle, which is now seven years old: “a magazine that is in general focused on a particular brand of well-heeled global urbanism … Monocle doesn’t have bureaus, it has bureaux what Monocle and its advertisers clearly understand, even if the point is seldom made explicit, is that living in a first-tier city is a luxury good, like a Prada bag or a pair of Hermès boots.”
  • Don’t merely go to the circus. Go to the circus in Communist-era Poland. “The visual style of the Polish School of Posters, funded and sponsored by state commissions, was characterized by vibrant colors, playful humor, hand-lettering, and a bold surrealism that rivaled anything similar artists in the West were doing at the time.”

 

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All Your Favorite Shipwrecks in One Convenient Place, and Other News

March 25, 2014 | by

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Johan Christian Dahl, Shipwreck on the Norwegian Coast (detail), 1831.

  • If you woke up this morning and wondered, Will today finally be the day that the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) puts together an interactive map of all known shipwrecks that have occurred off the treacherous Scottish coastline?, congratulations: the answer is yes.
  • Shut up the surly teenager in your life—remind him of how viciously teens were treated in medieval Europe. “A lord’s huntsman is advised to choose a boy servant as young as seven or eight: one who is physically active and keen sighted. This boy should be beaten until he had a proper dread of failing to carry out his master’s orders.”
  • Vis-à-vis cruelty: in Britain, it’s now illegal to send books to prisoners. Authors are protesting.
  • Back in the day, Orson Welles performed ten Shakespeare plays on the radio. You can listen to them.
  • “Not since the heyday of Dickens, Dumas, and Henry James has serialized fiction been this big.” Behind Wattpad, a new storytelling app.
  • What if classic writers wrote erotica? (Hats off to Camus’ Sutra, which is especially inspired.)

 

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The Self Resides in the Chest, and Other News

March 20, 2014 | by

Descartes_diagram

Descartes thought the seat of the soul was in the pineal gland. He was so wrong.

  • “Revenge should have no bounds,” the Bard wrote in Hamlet, and one man, at least, vigorously agrees: when a graphic designer in Bristol failed to receive the gaming console he’d bought online, he sought retribution by sending the scammer the complete works of Shakespeare via text message.
  • An early photo of Jason Segel portraying David Foster Wallace indicates that Jason Segel does not very much resemble David Foster Wallace.
  • Where are you? You are in your chest. Researchers “asked ten blindfolded adults to use a metal pointer to motion at ‘themselves.’ Most people indicated their upper torso area … ‘the torso is, so to speak, the great continent of the body, relative to which all other body parts are mere peninsulas. Where the torso goes, the body follows.’”
  • In a new interview, Ralph Steadman discusses, among other things, his old pet sheep: “It was a mutant sheep, but a local farmer was taking it to slaughter. I adopted her, named her Zeno, or him perhaps—does it really matter? It’s a sheep, after all … I would go to her in the morning for wisdom, for a philosophic message of what to do with the day.”
  • John Banville’s new novel resurrects Raymond Chandler’s beloved private eye, Philip Marlowe, raising the question: “At what point does a work of supposed literary merit simply become fan fiction?”

 

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