The Agony and the Ecstasy of Author Glomming

Inspired by Nicole's idea at bibliographing, I have been moved to examine my own list of most read authors.  Off I went to LibraryThing, where I clicked on the "already read tag," organized the list by author, and examined the results with some satisfaction and a creeping sense of chagrin:

William Shakespeare - 39
Tom Stoppard - 28
Elizabeth Peters - 19
Lewis Trondheim/Joann Sfar - 17
George Bernard Shaw - 10
Neil Gaiman - 9
Charlaine Harris - 9
Sam Shepard - 8
Judy Cuevas / Judith Ivory -8
Bill Willingham  - 8
J.K. Rowling - 8
Brian K. Vaughan  - 8
Ursula K. Le Guin - 7
Martin McDonagh - 6
Jane Austen - 6
Oscar Wilde - 6
Boris Akunin - 5
Agatha Christie - 5
Susan Cooper - 5
Charles Dickens - 5
Alan Moore - 5
Tamora Pierce - 5

Some greater philosophical questions immediately leaped to mind.

First, naturally, What does this list say about me?

Well, I am a reader of, let us say, disparate and polyglot tastes.  You can see the residue of a decade spent pursuing degrees in Literature in the presence of various classics (Dickens, Austen), and the marks of a lifetime spent in the study of drama in the inclusion of playwrights like Stoppard, Shaw, and Shepard.  Combine this with an obviously completist approach to Shakespeare, and you can see that the "S" section of my "Already read" library* is a vasty prospect.

But you can also see that I am a voracious devourer of comics (Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan of Y: The Last Man, Bill Willingham of the Fables series, and Trondheim and Sfar, frequent collaborators on the brilliant Dungeon series whose work I have lumped together here), mysteries (Elizabeth Peters, Agatha Christie, Boris Akunin), romances (the stunningly literary Judith Ivory, and Charlaine Harris, whose presence on this list is the real source of my blushes**), YA of the fantasy variety (Susan Cooper, J.K. Rowling, Tamora Pierce), as well as fantasy more broadly (Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. Le Guin).

Immediately after blushing for the amount of genre literature on this list, I began to question my own academicky prejudices: is this really a cause for embarrassment?  Certainly not. I am pleased by the breadth of my tastes, in literature as in film and music.  It shows a flexibility that is one of my own favorite features.  Even when I dislike something, that repulsion is usually accompanied by a nagging feeling that I want someone who loved it to communicate the details and causes of that love to me.  The pleasure to be gleaned from hating something is, for me, less rich than the pleasure of loving it.

The only cause for embarrassment comes in seeing that you have devoted a great deal of time to reading books that you haven't particularly enjoyed or admired.  And there are a few of those on here.  Harris's books are the prime example of books that are addictive without being (any more, at least) really enjoyable.  Peters's mysteries are others that I enjoyed tremendously without admiring to the point that I would recommend them as literature (and many in number are the genre books that I would recommend as literature, I hasten to say:  Judith Ivory's Black Silk, for example, or Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.  Or, for that matter, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy, which doesn't appear on this list.).  The Willingham and Vaughan comics fall into the same category as the Peters mysteries.  And apart from Gaiman's very good Sandman comics, I have always found him more compelling as a personality and blogger than as a novelist.

So, What does this list say about this list?

First of all, it says that the authors you read most are not necessarily the authors you like best.  Often, they are simply either the authors it is easiest and fastest to read, or the authors who have written the most books and longest series.  Both of these factors contribute substantially to the glommability of an author's canon.  Jane Austen, for instance, would have ranked much higher had she lived longer and thus written more.  I have never read an Austen novel that was less than an impeccably-crafted page-turner, but I have (alas) read all of the long works now.  I glom Austen.  I glom her most heartily.

Because of some of the reasons mentioned above, it also says that genre authors are going to be disproportionately represented on lists like these.  I am reluctant to generalize beyond my own reading habits, but I will tentatively say that many, like me, read genre fiction faster than the ickily-designated "literary fiction."  With the exception of works like Joe Sacco's excellent Palestine, I read graphic novels considerably faster than their prose brethren.  (This is a flaw in my reading: in fact, I should be reading them much more slowly, since I process images more lumberingly than I do words.)  Fantasy, mystery, young adult fiction, and romance are also quite a bit more likely, as genres, to appear in series, which demand that you move on to another by the author as soon as you have finished one.

There are also a few flaws in my methodology here:

First, there are gaps in the records. The books included encompass only those I have read since beginning a book diary at age ten. They also fail to take into account the many years since in which my record-keeping (and record-translating-to-LibraryThing) has been spotty, lazy, or entirely void (I'm looking at you, senior year of high school.  I know more than five books were read that year, regardless of how much time I spent on the phone with my boyfriend.).

Secondly, some genres are hard to account for via LibraryThing.  LibraryThing records the volumes of literature that you read, but with drama, for instance, I often read full-length works in anthologies, without completing the full volume (and thus without marking it as read on LT).  I feel certain that more playwrights should appear on this list, but can't quite put my finger on who they would be.

Still, intriguing.  I am most interested to note the dearth of contemporary, non-genre fiction writers on this list. Ishiguro, for instance, is a favorite who barely failed to make the list. (I have A Pale View of Hills on the nightstand, ready to remedy this injustice.)  But what of other favorite likes Auster, Barker, or Munro? My tendency, I suppose, is to read broadly in contemporary literature, rather than deeply.  Hmm.

What, I ask you, would your list look like? And what, more importantly, would your feelings about it be?

*Which occupies the basement and ground floor of my house and a whole wall of my office.  The "To be read" library (also known as Mt. TBR) occupies a much vaster territory - the middle and top floors of the house, and the two other bookshelved walls of the office.  Sometimes it intimidates me.  But most of the time it fills me with a sense of cosmic rightness.

** More on this soon, I expect.

She talks - in limp sprawls - incessant, charming, empty Southern talk

The distinctive American columns of Old Playmakers Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC, one of the early university buildings, and site of many a theatrical shenanigan for me and D.  It was originally a library, but in the university's early days it doubled as a ballroom for dances - its shelves were on casters, and could be pushed to the wall.  Or so I've heard.   The rare American columns (featuring corn instead of the traditional acanthus leaves of Corinthian columns) were invented by the man who designed the Capitol, and you can see another example of them the next time you are hanging around the Supreme Court.  He then went on to invent two more varieties of American column- the tobacco leaf and the magnolia.

Here we are in North Carolina, land of college idylls and basketball glories (Let us never mention last year.  I don't even know who won last year's tourney.  No - I DON'T EVEN KNOW.), and home of my noble in-laws.*

Perhaps it is that we are mid-reunion with D's extended family. Or perhaps it is that we returned to our college town (site of our meeting and now home to a vast variety of crappy chain stores we have never encountered before - and that seem, in fact, to have sprung up since we were last here six months ago) for the wistfully memorial purpose of attending a college friend's wedding, but I am left feeling ... considerably more than nostalgic.  Mournful, really.  Wizened, a bit.  Desiccated?  Mmmm... too far.

And what is there to do when contemplating the ephemeral slipperiness of past pleasures in North Carolina, but quote Thomas Wolfe:

You can't go back to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of "the artist" and the ideal...

He saw now that you can't go home again--not ever. There was no road back.

So says he in his monumental, as-of-yet-unread-by-me** novel of North Carolina, Look Homeward, Angel.  The hero goes off to school at Pulpit Hill, just as the author had gone in his time to Chapel Hill (where he was prodigiously accomplished - editor of the Daily Tar Heel, actor and playwright on the stage of Old Playmakers, debater in the societies that ran the campus at the time).  This is how he describes this town that is so saturated with memory and longing for us:
 But the university was a charming, an unforgettable place. It was situated in the little village of Pulpit Hill, in the central midland of the big State.  Students came and departed by motor from the dreary tobacco town of Exeter***, twelve miles away: the countryside was raw, powerful and ugly, a rolling land of field, wood, and hollow; but the university itself was buried in a pastoral wilderness [...]
     Its great poverty, its century-long struggle in the forest had given the university a sweetness and beauty it was later to forfeit.  It had the fine authority of provincialism - the provincialism of an older South.  Nothing mattered but the State: the State was a mighty empire, a rich kingdom - there was, beyond, a remote and semi-barbaric world.
     In this pastoral setting a young man was enabled to loaf comfortably and delightfully through four luxurious and indolent years.  There was, God knows, seclusion enough for monastic scholarship, but the rare romantic quality of the atmosphere, the prodigal opulence of Springtime, thick with flowers and drenched in a fragrant warmth of green shimmering light, quenched pretty thoroughly any incipient rash of bookishness.  Instead they loafed and invited their souls or, with great energy and enthusiasm, promoted the affairs of glee-clubs****, athletic teams, class politics, fraternities, debating societies, and dramatic clubs.  And they talked - always they talked, under the trees, against the ivied walls, assembled in their rooms, they talked - in limp sprawls - incessant, charming, empty Southern talk; they talked with a large, easy fluency about God, the Devil, and philosophy, the girls, politics, atheletics, fraternities and the girls - My God! how they talked!
It is so vivid and ambivalent and loving an evocation of what college life was like in Chapel Hill (is it like this for everyone?) that I feel a sudden, urgent need to pick up the novel and read it cover to cover.  

In its absence, I will have to seek solace in Tony Earley's novel of Carolinian childhood, Jim the Boy.  I have known it was excellent (fragile in its excellence) since this moment, a dozen pages in, when Jim marks his tenth birthday by finally joining his uncles in the fields at dawn:
The state highway led directly into the rising sun; when the sun pulled itself loose from the road, it suddenly seemed very far away.  The sky, in a moment Jim didn't notice until the moment had passed, turned blue, as if it had never tried the color before and wasn't sure anyone would like it.  Jim giggled out loud for no reason he could think of.
The book is filled with these moments of odd, internal poetry - the sort of freewheeling, associative  pondering that I link to the inactive moments of only-childhood, before my thinking was battened down in the stringent patterns of adult logic.  The reasoning of childhood follows the same logic as poetic image, I think.

But why (or how to) mourn this loss of creative indolence?  Thomas Wolfe has an answer:
"My dear, dear girl" he said gently as she tried to speak, "we can't turn back the days that have gone. We can't turn life back to the hours when our lungs were sound, our blood hot, our bodies young. We are a flash of fire--a brain, a heart, a spirit. And we are three-cents-worth of lime and iron--which we cannot get back."

Until tomorrow, then, from the land of my love, the countryside of cool, 80-degree midnights....

*Or whatever the term is for those who are a part of your family through long partnership, but not by marriage.  Seriously - we need a word.

** But not by D, who, when asked just now what he thought of Look Homeward, Angel, said, "I'd hate to see what the unedited version looked like."

*** Durham, that is, site of absolutely nothing of athletic interest.  Well, maybe the Durham Bulls.

****Proving some things haven't changed between Wolfe's time and Will Schuester's.

2010 100+ Reading Challenge

This post has become a bit unwieldy, so I have moved it to its own page.  Go here for a more recently updated list.

While I am plunging back into my blog life, I have decided (advisedly) to join a couple of challenges as well.  Now, I am well aware that it is my wont to overindulge in challenges, thus making keeping up with them both a duty and an impossibility rather than a pleasure.  But (on the other hand) I do enjoy a good challenge so much when I can keep up with it, and it is the best way to stay in touch with the broad lit-blogging community.

So I have decided to start off with a couple of challenges that are wonderfully broadly conceived, and are in keeping with where my reading seems to be trending anyway.  Both are hosted by J. Kaye.

The first is 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, which will (I hope) give me permission to do as much reading as I like without feeling guilty about it.  It is, after all, for a noble purpose.

The rules are as follows:

1. The goal is to read 100 or more books. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

--Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post. To learn how to sign up without having a blog, click here.

2. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Library books, Young Reader, Nonfiction – as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent or can be purchased as such, the book counts.

3. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

4. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010. Books started before the 1st do not count.

Once 2010 and the Challenge begin, I will post my progress here.

Click here if you would like to join the 100+ Reading Challenge.

My progress to date (Original Post was 11/23/09, links are to my reviews):

  1. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (1996, Australia) ***1/2, finished January 4. 
  2. Reckless by Amanda Quick (1992, USA) **, finished January 4.
  3. More than a Mistress by Mary Balogh (2000, Canada) **1/2, finished January 6.
  4. The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory (2001, USA) ***1/2, finished January 9.
  5. Untie my Heart by Judith Ivory (2002, USA) ***1/2, finished January 10.
  6. Look Back in Anger by John Osborne (1956, UK) ***1/2, finished January 11.
  7. Lady Elizabeth's Comet by Sheila Simonson (2008, USA) ***, finished January 11.
  8. Agamemnon by Aeschylus (458 BCE, Athens) ****1/2, finished January 12.
  9. Angel in a Red Dress by Judith Ivory (1988, USA) ***, finished January 13.
  10. Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel (2002, USA) *1/2, finished January 17.
  11. Oedipus the King by Sophocles (c. 428 BCE, Athens) ****, finished January 18.
  12. The Caretaker by Harold Pinter (1959, UK) ***1/2, finished January 18.
  13. Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer (USA) **1/2, finished January 18.
  14. The Wild Child by Mary Jo Putney (1999, USA) ***, finished January 21.
  15. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard (1967, UK) *****, finished January 25.
  16. The Bacchae by Euripides (406 BCE, Athens) ****, finished January 25.
  17. The Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe (2009, USA) **1/2 , finished January 25.
  18. The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost (2004, USA/Holland) ***, finished February 1.
  19. What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton (1967, UK) ***1/2, finished February 1.
  20. Lysistrata by Aristophanes (411 BCE, Athens) ***1/2, finished February 2.
  21. The Proposition by Judith Ivory (1999, USA) ***1/2, finished February 6.
  22. Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished February 7.
  23. Equus by Peter Shaffer (1973, UK) ***, finished February 8.
  24. Sleeping Beauty by Judith Ivory (1998, USA) ***1/2, finished February 10.
  25. Eyton by Lynne Connolly (2010, USA) *, finished February 12.
  26. Ember by Bettie Sharpe (2008, USA) ****, finished February 13.
  27. 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick (2007, USA) ****, finished February 13.
  28. Everyman (15th C, England) ***1/2, finished February 15.
  29. Top Girls by Caryl Churchill (1982, UK) ****, finished February 16.
  30. Black Ice by Anne Stuart (2005, USA) **1/2, finished February 16.
  31. Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole (2008, USA) **, finished February 17.
  32. The Rebellious Ward by Joan Wolf (1984, USA) ***1/2, finished February 17.
  33. The Double Deception by Joan Wolf (1983, USA) **1/2, finished February 19.
  34. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811, UK) ****, finished February 22.  
  35. To Have and to Hold by Patricia Gaffney (1995, USA) ***, finished February 23.
  36. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (2004, USA) ***, finished February 23.
  37. Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker (1988, UK) ***1/2, finished March 1.
  38. The Slightest Provocation by Pam Rosenthal (2006, USA) **1/2, finished March 1.
  39. Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1590-1593, England) ***, finished March 3. 
  40. Pentecost by David Edgar (1995, UK) ****, finished March 10. 
  41. A London Season by Joan Wolf (1980, USA) **1/2, finished March 10. 
  42. Sabriel by Garth Nix (1995, Australia) ***, finished March 12. 
  43. A Gypsy at Almack's by Chloe Cheshire (1993, USA) ***1/2, finished March 12. 
  44. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (2008, USA) ***, finished March 13.  
  45. Like a Thief in the Night by Bettie Sharpe (2008, USA) **1/2, finished March 14. 
  46. Fuenteovejuna by Lope de Vega (~1614, Spain) ***, finished March 15.
  47. Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (1998, UK) ****1/2, finished March 15.
  48. Celia's Secret by Michael Frayn and David Burke (2001, UK) ***1/2, finished March 17.
  49. Dark Angel by Mary Balogh (1994, Canada) ***, finished March 19.
  50. Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh (1995, Canada) **1/2, finished March 20. 
  51. 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane (1999, UK) ****1/2, finished March 22. 
  52. Bliss by Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas (1995, USA) ****, finished March 23.
  53. House by Alan Ayckbourn (2000, UK) ***1/2, finished March 25.
  54. Tartuffe by Molière (1664-9, France) ***1/2, finished March 29.
  55. Garden by Alan Ayckbourn (2000, UK) ***1/2, finished March 29. 
  56. The Scottish Lord by Joan Wolf (1981, USA) **1/2, finished April 3. 
  57. Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown (2007, USA) ***, finished April 3.
  58. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (2008, UK) ****, finished April 3.
  59. Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (2009, UK) ****, finished April 5.
  60. Phaedra by Jean Racine (1677, France) ****, finished April 5.
  61. Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri (2009, USA) ***, finished April 12.
  62. Mind Games by Carolyn Crane (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished April 14.
  63. Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare (2009, USA) ***, finished April 15.
  64. Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs (2008, USA) ***, finished April 16.
  65. The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin (2008, UK) ***1/2, finished April 20. 
  66. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2008, Australia) ****, finished April 21.
  67. Wicked all Day by Liz Carlyle (2009) **1/2, finished May 5.
  68. The Gilded Web by Mary Balogh (Wales/Canada, 1989) **1/2, finished Mary 8.
  69. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (1995, USA) ***, finished May 16.
  70. The Best of Saki by Saki (1904/1910/1911/1914/1923, UK) ****, finished May 24.
  71. Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished May 27.
  72. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2008, UK/USA) ***1/2, finished May 30.
  73. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991, USA) **1/12, finished June 9.
  74. Pyongyang by Guy Delisle (2003, Canada) ***1/2, finished June 16.
  75. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (2010, USA) **, finished June 16.
This post has become a bit unwieldy, so I have moved it to its own page.  Go here for a more recently updated list.

2010 100+ Films Challenge

This post has become a bit unwieldy, so I have moved it to its own page.  Go here for a more recently updated list.

While I am updating my challenge status, it occurs to me that I should set myself a watching challenge as well as a couple of reading ones.  This is a personal challenge, intended to help me keep track of what I watch and keep on top of my Netflix/ accounts as well as my 1001 Movies to See Before I Die project, but if any would like to join me, come on down.  The more the merrier.

My goals in this challenge: to watch at least 100 films (not including television series) in 2010.  That's what, about 2 a week?  Not as rampant a pace as during the heyday of my 1001 Movies project (aka grad school), when I was often watching two films a day, but considerably more realistic.

Here how my progress stands to date (Original post was Jan. 9, 2010):

[Films from my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Project are in bold]

Week 1 (January 1-7)
1)  Vicky Christina Barcelona, dir. Woody Allen (USA/Spain, 2008)  **

Week 2 (January 8-14)
2)  If..., dir. Lindsay Anderson (UK, 1968) ***1/2
3) Cat Dancers, dir. Harris Fishman (USA, 2008) ***
[In Treatment Season 1]

Week 3 (January 15-21)
None! (For shame...)

Week 4 (January 22-28)
4) Kinsey, dir. Bill Condon (USA, 2004) **1/2

Week 5 (January 29-February 4)
5) The Warrior, dir. Asif Kapadia (UK/India, 2001) ***1/2
6) Spartacus, dir. Stanley Kubrick (USA, 1960) ***1/2
[True Blood Season 1]

Week 6 (February 5-11)
None! (Deepening shame...)

Week 7 (February 12-18)
None! (Into the abyss of regret...)

Week 8 (February 19-25)
7) Goin' Down the Road, dir. Donald Shebib (Canada, 1970) **
8) Shoot the Piano Player, dir. François Truffaut (France, 1960) ***1/2
9) Inglourious Basterds, dir. Quentin Tarantino (USA, 2009) ***1/2

Week 9 (February 26-March 4)
10) Street Fight, dir. Marshall Curry (USA, 2005) ***1/2
11) Little Dieter Needs to Fly, dir. Werner Herzog (This is when national categorization becomes muddled.  Um. OK: USA/Germany, 1997) ***
12) The Hurt Locker, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (USA, 2008) ***
13) Avatar, dir. James Cameron (USA, 2009) ***

Week 10 (March 5-March 11)
14) Shakespeare in Love, dir. John Madden (USA, 1998) ****1/2

Week 11 (March 12-18)
15) Rescue Dawn, dir. Werner Herzog (Germany/USA, 2006) **1/2
16) Mondo Cane, dir. Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti, and Franco Prosperi(Italy, 1962) ***1/2

Week 12 (March 19-25)
17) New Moon, dir. Chris Weitz (USA, 2009) **1/2

Week 13 (March 26- April 1)
18) Fantastic Mr. Fox, dir. Wes Anderson (USA/UK, 2009) ****
19) Molière, dir. Laurent Tirard (France, 2007) **1/2

Week 14 (April 2-April 8)
20) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, dir. David Fincher (USA, 2008) ***
21)  If..., dir. Lindsay Anderson (UK, 1968) ****
22) Into the Wild, dir. Sean Penn (USA, 2007) ***1/2

Week 15 (April 9-15)
23) Seven Up!, dir. Paul Almond (UK, 1964) ***1/2
24) Seven plus Seven, dir. Michael Apted (UK, 1970) ***1/2
25) Aparajito, dir. Satyajit Ray (India, 1956) ****
26) Jules et Jim, dir. François Truffaut (France, 1962) **** 
27) Sunshine Cleaning, dir. Christine Jeffs (USA, 2008) ***

Week 16 (April 16-22)
28) Surrogates, dir. Jonathan Mostow (USA, 2009) **
29) Up in the Air, dir. Jason Reitman (USA, 2009) ****
30) Precious, dir. Lee Daniels (USA, 2009) ***
31) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, dir. David Yates (USA/UK, 2009) ***1/2
32) A collection of 2009/10 Oscar-nominated shorts, including Logorama (France, dir. François Alaux and Hervé de Crécy), French Roast (France, dir. Fabrice O. Joubert), and Miracle Fish (Australia, dir. Luke Doolan)

Week 17 (April 23-29)
33) Pather Panchali, dir. Satyajit Ray (India, 1955) ****

Week 18 (April 30-May 6)
None! (But let it be said that I did see lots of plays in these filmless weeks in London....)

Week 19 (May 7-13)

Week 20 (May 14-20)

Week 21 (May 21-27)
34) Shutter Island, dir. Martin Scorsese (USA, 2009) ***
35) The Last Station, dir. Michael Hoffman (USA/Germany, 2009) ***1/2
36) Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, dir. Nick Park and Steve Box (UK, 2005) ****

Week 22 (May 28-June 3)
37) Iron Man, dir. Jon Favreau (USA, 2008) **
38) District 9, dir. Neill Blomkamp (South Africa, 2009) ****

Week 23 (June 4-10)
39) Up, dir. Pete Docter (USA, 2009) ****

Week 24 (June 11-17)
40) The Raiders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg (USA, 1981) ***
41) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, dir. Steven Spielberg (USA, 1984) **

Week 25 (June 18-24)
42) Cleo de 5 à 7 / Cleo from 5 to 7, dir. Agnès Varda (France, 1961) ****
43) Ponyo, dir. Hayao Miyazaki (Japan, 2008) **

(Running 7 films behind schedule)

This post has become a bit unwieldy, so I have moved it to its own page.  Go here for a more recently updated list.

Forgotten Shagspere and Elephants who *Never* Forget

First, let me give you this, an entertaining article from The Times (of London) on what we actually (surprisingly) know about Shakespeare's private life.  My favorite tidbit:

Did his marriage to Anne Hathaway involve her father’s shotgun?
Quite possibly. He was 18 and Anne Hathaway was 26. The parish records for Stratford-upon-Avon show that over the 50-year period of Shakespeare’s life he is one of just three men in the locality to marry before the age of 20 and the only one whose bride was pregnant. He was so young, in fact, that he needed a special Bishop’s License, on which his name is spelled Shagspere.
I hadn't (after all these years reading and seeing and teaching Shakespeare - sorry, Shagspere) realized quite how unusual a case his marriage was.  Anne Hathaway, you minx, you get more and more intriguing the more I find out about this relationship.

And who can resist a bit of staging-shapes-dramatic-form gossip?
Did he go in for lighting and sound effects?
Yes, the Blackfriars indoor theatre (which was used from 1608) in London was candlelit. His last plays have a clear five-act structure, and the reason for this was that candles lasted only so long; you needed four points in the action in which the play could stop, music play and the (brief) candles be changed. 
Not someone who teaches theatre history, that's who.

Some of the rest is a bit speculative for my tastes. (How can we really be sure that the use of dog-related epithets as slurs in the plays mean that Shagspere didn't go in for puppies as pets?  Perhaps it was familiarity that bred contempt.  Perhaps that was just the usage of a culture of ubiquitous dog-ownership.)  But highly entertaining.

And now this: an English professor (because really, what don't we study?) who works on textual concordances* has discovered that Agatha Christie may have been suffering from Alzheimer's when she wrote her final novel, (wait for it) Elephants Can Remember.** 

His process in determining this, combined with work that is being done elsewhere in using writing as an early indicator of Alzheimer's, is riveting, and not a little unnerving to those us who have a family history of the disease.  (Is it utterly irrational that I gained some relief from the hypothesis that convoluted syntax may be a sign that its creator is less predisposed to dementia?  Perhaps the frequency with which I get grammatically lost, mid-sentence, in lectures should make me a bit less giddy.)

*An old-fashioned but indispensable field of research - how else would we know that Milton never used the word "because"?  This sort of work is always fascinating to me.

** The novel itself - which I haven't yet read, although I think that it sits on a shelf somewhere - apparently deals with a protagonist who struggles with memory and memory loss.

Closer Look (London Journal)

On the wall of a tube station:

A quiet complaint:

So shy.

An unnerving discovery

The other day at the video store, we found a horror movie that is set on my street.  My little, tree-lined, one-block-long Haligonian street. 

We considered renting it, but then I decided that I like being able to sleep at night when I live here all alone.