Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free

Last Christmas, my parents got me a Sony e-reader. At first, I was enchanted by its whispered promises. “I don’t have to carry around ten pounds worth of books on vacation anymore?? My 500+ paged novels now can fit conveniently in my purse via this slim little thing?? I can be hip and cool and all of the popular kids will like me??”  my brain thought feverishly.

It’s definitely taken some getting used to (and I’ll admit, I still like getting the real deal better than the electronic versions). Books are intensely personal items for me; each book I have in my shelves isn’t just a book, it’s a time, a place, a mindset. The stains on page 114 of Portnoy’s Complaint are from a spilled Pasifico beer. The folded down dog-eared corners in my copy of Brave New World are a representation of the favorite passages of my 17-year-old self. And poor, poor Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is so marked with annotations that J. M. Barrie is surely rolling in his grave.

But that’s the beauty of books. It’s in their tangible pages, their glue at the seams, their reassuring weight, and, most of all, their ability to hold memories within them.

There is something to be said for e-readers, though, especially when sites like Planet ebook offer 50+ classics you can download on your e-reader…brace yourselves, fearless readers…FOR FREE. I’m talking Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, Frankenstein, The Great Gatsby…

For some free books (how could you possibly say no??) click HERE.

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“He Should Be My Fool and I His Fate”: Fool by Christopher Moore

Confession time, word nerds: I am a huge Shakespeare freak (I know what you’re thinking, I know: a Lit major who loves Shakespeare? How mind-bogglingly original). But I love the heck out of that man’s work. I love the mysterious Dark Lady sonnets, I love Helena’s whining iambs, I love conniving, deformed Richard the III- I even love the ending to Measure for Measure, and that takes some serious dedication. Let’s put it this way: if I had a time machine, I would travel back in time and bonk the bajeezus out of that darling old Bard.

Am I getting too creepy and necrophiliac on you? Sorry…where were we?

Ah yes. Fool, the hilariously inappropriate lovechild of darling Billy Shakespeare and another writer near and dear to my heart, Christopher Moore (I will wax poetic about Christopher Moore at a later date, I’m sure. I love him with all of the part of my heart not devoted to Shakespeare), was a book I knew I absolutely had to read.

In his novel Fool, Christopher Moore- infamous for his laugh-out-loud novels which explore demons, vampires, cargo cults, and other generally absurd and slightly macabre topics- (loosely) tells the Shakespearian story of King Lear from the point of view of the court fool. True to all of Shakespeare’s plot devices, Moore’s Fool features intrigue, mistaken identities, dramatic irony, and more than a few bawdy jokes. However, rather than have Lear be the center of all the action, Moore places his fool, a dwarf aptly named Pocket, as the one who drives the narrative. Pocket finds himself plotting a civil war, seducing Lear’s daughters, tangling with the three witches from Macbeth, and dropping so many F-bombs that I lost count after page 26.

Indisputably, Fool is more than thoroughly researched; Moore demonstrates his knowledge of Shakespeare through many quick jibs and allusions .  And, as is always the case with Moore, his book leaves you laughing out loud at the absurdity in which he throws his delightful characters. That being said, those who subscribe to a purist reader of the Bard may be outraged by the liberties Moore takes in his retelling of Shakespeare’s Lear (Edgar, for example, is first introduced as a village madman named Tom O’Bedlam, covered in cow manure). Additionally, the readers who have no point of reference for King Lear will undoubtably be on the outside of this inside joke. Even I, having read King Lear multiple times, found myself lost at a few points, wondering exactly where Moore was attempting to go.

I’ve got to say, though, it takes some definite moxie to rewrite Shakespeare. Hats off to you, Good Sir Moore. That’s all for now, fearless readers. Parting is such sweet…well, you know.

 

P.S. The also hilarious writers at Cracked.com just posted a new article which I thought any other Shakespeare nerds out there would enjoy: The Six Most WTF Moments From Shakespeare Plays!

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Lovely

 

-Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays, 1968

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Dig In: Field Work by Seamus Heaney

Apologies for the absence, fearless readers, but I’m back with a vengeance for more fun with words!

Having never read an actual, entire book of poetry before, Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s Field Work was truly an exciting exploration of language for me. Encouraged by one of my more eccentric English professors to fully investigate Heaney’s poems, I dove in headfirst and, I must confess, found myself both over my head and head over heels.

Field Work, published in 1978, consists of poems inspired by Heaney’s native home of Ireland. Some describe the local plebeian culture, others the way the land looks after a long rain, but most are the deeply personal experiences had by Heaney himself. The collection starts off with one of his best poems, “Oysters,” a masterfully crafted narrative which captures feelings of guilt, lust, and convoluted happiness in an extraordinary five stanzas which seem, at first, a simple tale of enjoying the company of friends on a picnic eating oysters. Heaney’s brilliance comes from his mastery of the English language and the subtle way in which he carefully controls his prose.

Heaney uses words like a fine cook, a connoisseur who chooses carefully and purposefully, each ingredient coming together to create a delicate and complex whole. His poems are beautifully written in their seeming simple forms, many no more than a few stanzas. However, once the reader digs into the poem, looking at each word (I have another confession- I spent at least 80 percent of Field Work with Oxford English Dictionary Online open, researching entomology) Heaney’s seemingly simplistic poetry unfolds into something grand and undoubtedly beautiful.

Take it from someone who normally does not delve into the world of poems- Seamus Heaney’s Field Work is well worth the, well, field work.

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