The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘William Shakespeare’

Vengeance, Death, Blood, and Revenge

August 17, 2015 | by

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Act I, scene i

Titus Andronicus is a hideous play. Harold Bloom called it “a poetic atrocity”; Samuel Johnson refused to believe that Shakespeare was its author, writing that “the barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience … That Shakespeare wrote any part, though Theobald declares it incontestable, I see no reason for believing.” In its five grisly acts, fourteen people die; at least one is raped; throats are cut; hands, tongues, and heads are cut off; blood spurts “as from a conduit with three issuing spouts”; bodies are thrown to beasts and into pits, dragged into forests, buried alive chest-deep and left to starve; the bones of two men are ground “to powder small” and baked, with heads, into pies, which are then fed to their mother.

In other words, it’s one of those tragedies that was just crying out for an illustrated edition. Read More »

When Nacre Was Lucre, and Other News

May 20, 2015 | by

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An undated book from the mother-of-pearl craze.

  • On the cover of a 1598 book, The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, a historian claims to have found “the only demonstrably authentic portrait of Shakespeare made in his lifetime”; the editor of Country Life magazine is calling this “the literary discovery of the century.” The century, thankfully, is young.
  • Pause to remember the garish bookbinding trends of yesteryear: “For a few years in the nineteenth century … papier-mâché books adorned with mother-of-pearl were part of a gift book fad, wherein a decorative tome of sentimental or religious poetry was bestowed upon a loved one, often around the winter holidays. The text was usually secondary to the gaudy cover, which was decorated to the extreme.”
  • Is photography merely a matter of chance? “By the end of the nineteenth century, after Kodak has arrived … much of the role of chance migrates from the processing phase to the moment of exposure. That moment was always prone to chance—in the long exposures of early photography, a dog might wander in a street scene, or a young portrait subject might sneeze and blur the image. But with fast shutters and films, the so-called instantaneous photograph arrives, and chance takes on a new prominence in composition—to the point that even the word composition seems questionable.”
  • Everett Fox is translating the Hebrew Bible—a tricky effort, given that the original is rooted in a deeply aural tradition. “I heard it, too. Short vowels twinkled and long vowels streamed by with showy tails. Consonants held crisp and true. The overall effect was of a simultaneously dense and sprawling thing, layered and alive and capable of surprising you. Fox has dedicated his life to giving the Anglophone ear a hint of that Hebrew drama … [He] uses every poetic means at his disposal: phrase length, line break, puns.”
  • The glam SAHMs (stay-at-home moms, if you’re new to this) of the Upper East Side await wife bonuses from their husbands: “A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance—how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a ‘good’ school—the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks.”

Jane Austen Unmentionables, and Other News

August 5, 2013 | by

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  • Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award–winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been pulled from the PS 114 sixth-grade reading list based on the following: “And if God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs. So I thank God for my thumbs.”
  • Speaking of the National Book Awards: the gotcha! stunt is as old as time. In the 1970s, a disgruntled writer submitted the manuscript of Jerzy Kosiński’s award-winning Steps (sans famous author name) to publishers and, yep, it was rejected.
  • Did Shakespeare really invent the concept of zero?
  • “Nestling in the middle of my Jane Austen goody bag is a black lace thong.” A visit to the JASNA convention, the Comic Con of Janeites. 
  • And a list of well-read TV characters begins with the dog Wishbone, from Wishbone. Happy Monday!
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    Rahm Emanuel to Jump in Lake If Kids Read, and Other News

    July 8, 2013 | by

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  • “This ‘immortal’ pilferer of other men’s stories and ideas, with his monstrous rhetorical fustian, his unbearable platitudes, his pretentious reduction of the subtlest problems of life to commonplaces against which a Polytechnic debating club would revolt, his incredible unsuggestiveness, his sententious combination of ready reflection with complete intellectual sterility, and his consequent incapacity for getting out of the depth of even the most ignorant audience, except when he solemnly says something so transcendentally platitudinous that his more humble-minded hearers cannot bring themselves to believe that so great a man really meant to talk like their grandmothers.” And other literary takedowns.
  • Playing on children’s eternal desire to see authority figures drenched in cold water, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije have sworn to jump in wintry Lake Michigan if local kids read two million books this summer.
  • Think the fun is over now that you’re back at work? Not so fast: here’s an idioms and formulaic language quiz!
  • Plus: (more) dirty jokes from Shakespeare.
  • When James Joyce, Jeanette Winterson, and Salman Rushdie wrote for children.
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    Sendak Does Tolstoy, and Other News

    June 20, 2013 | by

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  • Maurice Sendak illustrates Tolstoy.
  • And speaking of collaborations! Appropriately enough, there is now an interactive app for William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.
  • Everyone loves Bloomsday; why no Dalloway Day? (Dalloday?)
  • Ten words for which we could really use English equivalents. (Although, really, we should just learn the ones we don’t know. Especially age-otori.)
  • “Gertrude Stein, with her gnomish, arty, aphoristic tendencies, would seem to be ideal. ‘There is no there there’ may be one of the great proto-tweets.”
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    1984, and Other News

    January 8, 2013 | by

  • Check out the new 1984 cover. What do you think?
  • The Thomas Pynchon rumors: a breakdown.
  • How should Shakespeare really sound?
  • New Yorkers are spending more time in libraries … but not to read.
  • Love it or leave it, this is our world: Neruda Cats.
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