Sunday, May 23, 2010

Burn Your Bookes?!

Day 103 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project. Yesterday, after telling you about a dream (proving that, among the female characters on Friends, I most resemble Phoebe), I told you about the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and what local people are reading to prepare for seeing the 3 plays. (The 3 plays.)

Today, I will tell you that Ron is reading Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro, and that Robert is about to read it, too! (I asked again at Facebook, and got tons of answers, so you will be hearing about that for a while!) The authorship of Shakespeare's plays continues to be contested, and this should be a particularly interesting account, as it's written by the same guy who wrote A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, 1599, "an intimate history of Shakespeare," according to the front flap. In this book, Shakespeare wrote his own plays. So, in Contested Will, what is explored will be the controversies themselves, and why anyone would suppose otherwise. Looks fascinating, as some of the doubters were Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, and Helen Keller!

Robert reported that he was going to see (not read) Burn Your Bookes, a play (meant to be seen & heard, not read) by Richard Byrne, about Edward Kelley, an alchemist, and John Dee, a dabbler, both famous in Czechoslovakian culture. They went to Bohemia (where Perdita is sent in Shakespeare's play A Winter's Tale, as I recall, though that might have been a dream...) and looked into crystal balls, as alchemy and the occult seem inextricably linked.

(I know this rather too well, having handled a lot of occult books recently at Babbitt's. I started to feel queasy and dusty, so there might be something to it.)

I learned from the Washington Post article (linked above) that, according to playwright Byrne, "that whole alchemical tradition of Prague was one of those things Czech scholars could go to England and talk about and not worry about being too political." And here is where I want to hear from Doug (of Doug's List, not Julie, sorry, mistyped in previous-but-alas-published draft), who said that Tom Stoppard plays are usually not political. I always thought that was because he came from a repressive culture, affected by Communism, and had to write in "code," so to speak, as if about other things, in order to comment on society at all. Anyhoo....

Don't "burn your bookes" or yourself this summer. Do wear sunscreen, and do take books to the beach! I will be back with more "hot" summer reading.


Julie Kistler said...

Are you thinking of a different Julie? I don't think I ever would've said that Stoppard plays are not political. My goodness, think of "Coast of Utopia." Even "Arcadia" (my favorite) is political in its own way, since there is the politics of academia and history in there. And "Dogg's Hamlet" and "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor" seem decidedly political to me. Somebody else, perhaps?

I am very interested in the Shakespeare "controvery," however. I picked up the James Shapiro book when I was in New York (as possible airplane reading) but chose Patricia Pierce's "The Great Shakespeare Fraud" instead. It's not a great book, but the subject is fascinating -- one William-Henry Ireland , who faked some Shakespeare manuscripts around 1795, to make his father, a collector of all things Shakespearean, proud.

Kathleen said...

Sorry, Julie, I was thinking of a different person altogether, and have edited the entry. Previously, my pinky has done odd things, but this time it was my brain and all my fingers!