Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’
February 23, 2012 | by Jana Prikryl
The poet is often taken to be a subspecies of the memoirist, stirred to write about her own experiences—the more intense or “authentic,” the better. Thanks to the Romantics we believe that inwardness is truth, truth inwardness. This aesthetic can produce great lyric poetry, but it also tends to blanket many contemporary poems with a kind of fungus of the first person. Also of solemnity. A strong mid-century alkali to such mildew is John Berryman’s long sequence, The Dream Songs. Its main character is Henry, a concoction of Berryman’s own past, of his reading, and of American history. Henry gives utterance to a thousand shades of thought and feeling, of hesitations and inklings—the most intimate stuff of the inner voice—but he does this via verbal theatrics. He is constantly disputing himself, juggling his first, second, and third persons, and the result reads almost like an improvised vaudeville act. Henry’s entanglement with language becomes the central drama of the sequence.
In “Dream Song #14,” the drama, or antidrama, is Henry’s boredom, a thing that is especially tricky to convey. I never tire of the comic-grave, drooping yet metrically perfectionist, repetitious thespian roundelays of this poem. “Ever to confess you’re bored / means you have no // Inner Resources” is how Henry quotes his scolding mother. It’s a maxim both wearily conceded and richly facetious. If the brunt of some of the best lyric poetry is that we must strip the costumes off our feelings and confess them truly, Henry is strewing his alternative propaganda that—honestly? dishonestly?—he has none just now. No gainful feelings. And the costumes are of greater interest.
This spirit of rebellion, or rapscallionism, that sparks through all 385 of The Dream Songs (and it pains me to leave out the other 384) may feel so vital because Berryman was, among other things, a serious scholar of Shakespeare, well equipped to gauge the tensile strength of a dramatic monologue. In an essay written around the time he published the last of The Dream Songs, Berryman isolates one of the things that makes an otherwise minor play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, important: “The sudden endowing of a clown—against our expectation—with a voice of his own … A second clown comes onstage alone at II.iii.I and begins to talk to himself, or rather he begins to confide in the audience … Here we attend, for the first time in English comedy, to a definite and irresistible personality, absorbed in its delicious subject to the exclusion of all else; confused, and engaging.” The same might be said of Henry, even when he seems most wearily disengaged. Read More »
November 15, 2011 | by Andrew Martin
Umberto Eco’s novels have been widely admired for their blend of erudite scholarship and satisfying, page-turning plots. His latest book, The Prague Cemetery, continues this tradition by placing a fictional character by the name of Simonini in the midst of a real, historical milieu and giving him a significant, sinister place in nineteenth-century history and beyond. Simonini, an equal-opportunity hater of ethnicities, races, and religions, is a master forger and plays an important role in crafting the “conspiracies” of his time, most importantly the document that becomes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I spoke to Eco about the novel, just now being published in the US, on the phone from Italy.
The Prague Cemetery is your sixth novel. Do you find it becomes easier to write a new book at this point in your career? Does it become harder to find new subjects to interest you?
Every time that I write a novel I am convinced for at least two years that it is the last one, because a novel is like a child. It takes two years after its birth. You have to take care of it. It starts walking, and then speaking. In two months I will be eighty years old. Probably I will not write another novel, and so mankind will be safe.
Did you enjoy writing this particular book?
Less than the others. For me, the process of writing usually takes six years. In those years I collect material, I write, I rewrite. I am in a sort of a private world of myself with my characters. I don’t know what will happen. I discover it step by step. And I become very sad when the novel is finished because there is no more pleasure, no more surprise. Read More »
October 4, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
In The Speaker’s Progress, part of the 2011 Next Wave Festival, Sulayman Al-Bassam presents the final installment of a trilogy that reinterprets Shakespeare within the context of the modern Middle East. On Friday, the director talks about the Bard and the current political situation with Robyn Creswell, Arabic translator and Paris Review poetry editor.
To win tickets to this Artist Talk, simply e-mail the subject line “BAM” to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first two readers to respond are on their way to Fort Greene! (Two tickets per winner.)
“Shakespeare in the Middle East”
Hillman Attic Studio, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Friday, October 7 at 6 P.M.
$10; $5 for Friends of BAM
September 21, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
A cultural news roundup.
August 26, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
I would like to know how to find jobs writing, as someone very new to the field. I am unsure where to start looking. Some ads just look like scams to me.
We received two queries on starting out as a writer this week, as it happens—maybe it’s the time of year? I always think of “back-to-school” as a much more logical starting point for new ventures than January 1, personally. But to answer your question, to the extent that that is possible in a few short paragraphs? First of all, the necessary warnings. Making your living as a writer is hard. Obvious, maybe, but it bears repeating. My parents—and for that matter, my grandfather—wrote for a living, and stable isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when discussing my childhood. I often think that if I had any other marketable skills, I’d do something else. And keep in mind that many of the great writers in history have done so while holding down day jobs. I’m sure the structure of regular employment—not to mention the financial security—is a real help to many.
But if you are serious about writing professionally, in any capacity, the best advice anyone can give you is to write, and as much as possible. Which is not to say you should go for any “gig” advertised on Craigslist; you’re right to be wary. People have different views on blogs. In my case, I found keeping a personal blog to be useful both in developing a voice and in forcing myself to be accountable to a readership, even if that readership was just my grandmother. I’d add the caveat, though, that you want to be careful what you put out there—this writing, as much as anything in your clips file, will define you both professionally and personally. For the pitch, think of interesting takes on things that genuinely engage you. Don’t be shy. Familiarize yourself with publications and Web sites and get to know their tones. Not everyone can pay much; that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile clip. Ask questions. Go to readings. Talk to everyone you meet. Keep in mind that there’s no shame in striking out—and you will—and that no rejection feels as bad as the knowledge that you haven’t tried.
What are some of your favorite author twitters?
I think we can all agree that the best writers don’t always make the best twitterers, and vice versa, but there are a few who have mastered both genres. (Is Twitter a genre? I’m afraid it might be.) Polymath Wil Wheaton—as one might expect from someone who exercises such economy of characters in the spelling of his own first name—is a Twitter star for a reason. Ditto the ever-entertaining Stephen Fry. Maud Newton is necessary reading for the reader. And Shakespeare (@WillShake) isn’t half-stepping, either.
Who is your literary style icon?
Fictionally speaking, I’ve definitely gone through phases where certain characters exerted undue influence. I’m no particular lover of Hemingway, but who wouldn’t be seduced by this description of Lady Brett Ashley: “She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and her hair was brushed back like a boy’s. She started all that. She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it with that wool jersey.” Oh, and she also sports a fedora. (Not recommended for an undersized sixteen-year-old, in case the younger me is reading this.) If we’re talking literary figures beyond the page, the list gets even longer: Carson McCullers, Barbara Pym, and my personal inspiration for the years 2003 to 2005, Sylvia Beach.
Have a question for The Paris Review? E-mail us.
August 4, 2011 | by Ali Pechman
It wasn’t my plan to get thrown up against a wall by Macduff on a Monday night. Only hours earlier, I’d found myself innocuously waiting in a long line, on an otherwise deserted Chelsea corner, in a crowd wearing a sheen of sweat under cocktail dresses and collared shirts.
“I can’t believe they’re making us wait,” a man in very short shorts in front of me said. It was seven-twenty outside the McKittrick Hotel, a hundred-plus-room Chelsea warehouse currently playing host to one of New York’s most immersive theater experiences, but no one had seen any of the gore, sex, or fun our tickets promised. “I hate lines,” a girl in a halter top moaned to her friend.
“What’s the name of this?” a woman passing by asked me.
“Sleep No More,” I said.
“That’s the name of the club?”
We were waiting, in fact, to see a free-form staging of Macbeth, in which the audience wanders through a maze of lush rooms decorated like Hitchcock’s version of a boutique hotel, including a gruesome taxidermist shop and a candy store. I’d heard that actors climbed up walls, had orgies, and went ballroom dancing, but I’d decided to ignore the freakish distractions in hopes of sifting out something less fleeting from the thousands of documents, photos, and files that decorate the convoluted set. If my wallet was going to be nearly a hundred dollars lighter by the end of the night, I wanted to leave with more than just the experience of a naked, wordless rendition of “Out damn spot!” I wanted to walk away with some small, new understanding of Shakespeare. Read More »