February 26, 2013

Henry V by William Shakespeare

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
This famous speech was one of my first encounters with Shakespeare in English. We had classes in the history of England at the University, and our professor tried to make it interesting and entertaining for everybody, so we read literature, watched films and illustrations, etc. It was fun, really! So when the topic was Henry V, we of course read St. Crispin’s Day speech. There were some difficult words, but the overall heroic mood of the battle was really well-depicted and helped to imagine how it was.

I'm not sure if I can judge the play from the point of view of historical accuracy, as I have forgotten a lot from those history classes, but as a reader I find the course of events rather believable. The French campaign description begins with the justification of the invasion that the English found for themselves. It was inheritance, of course - the question which was rather confusing at that time when it was not sure if women could inherit. But it seems that everybody, even the king, understood that it is only a pretext for the war. Henry was worried before the battle that so many people will die for an unfair cause. He was very fast in convincing himself and everybody else that it's no king's fault, though :) Such a nice demagogue!

The battles themselves are described rather ruthlessly both from the point of view of the common people and the nobility. The reader is shown no only what is going on in the middle of the field, with people fighting for their lives, but also what happens in the night before the final stand, when everybody prepares himself for the battle and waits for the break of day. And both English and French camps are shown, which helps compare and contrast them. Now, I think French are described rather unfairly, their nobility is shallow and vain in the play, they discuss only their horses and equipment, and they are ever so sure of their victory. This is biased of course, but I think Shakespeare had to be patriotic, as this was part of the Tudor propaganda. Besides, I think common people liked their villains to be really villain :)

Shakespeare understood the difficulty of portraying a historical event without decorations and special effects, so a special man, called "Choir" comes out on the stage in the beginning of each act and gives some perspective of the events. Moreover, he humbly asks the viewer's help in imagining real horses, thousands of people instead the couple impersonating them, etc. It makes such a bond between the writer and the reader, that makes it hard not to like the play. Especially when the writer cares for his public so much:
There is the playhouse now, there must you sit,
And thence to France shall we convey you safe
And bring you back, charming the narrow seas
To give you gentle pass; for, if we may,
We’ll not offend one stomach with our play.

This is my first Shakespeare history ever, and though I felt a bit overwhelmed with names and long speeches at times, I really liked it. It is believable, if not unbiased, and stirs the reader's imagination. Henry is also very likable and inspiring, so I was rather happy he found his love in the end. And I'll finish with the advice he gives to her when convincing her to marry him:
And while thou liv’st, dear Kate, take a fellow of plain and uncoined constancy, for he perforce must do thee right because he hath not the gift to woo in other places. For these fellows of infinite tongue, that can rhyme themselves into ladies' favors, they do always reason themselves out again. What? A speaker is but a prater, a rhyme is but a ballad, a good leg will fall, a straight back will stoop, a black beard will turn white, a curled pate will grow bald, a fair face will wither, a full eye will wax hollow, but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon, or rather the sun and not the moon, for it shines bright and never changes but keeps his course truly.
True, right?

February 17, 2013

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Thanks to Délaissé's French February event, I've finally read a book I've been interested in for a long time. It looked like a chunkster in the beginning (653 pages of 18th century writing, and this is even without extensive commentary!), but you wouldn't believe what an easy and fast read it is! The trick is that the book is a collection of letters, so although the style is not really very different from letter to letter, the writing is very dynamic, and the POV changing allows the reader to see the events from different aspects.

The book is about two cunning intrigants, Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont who play the game of seduction for fun of sometimes for revenge. Their correspondence is very witty and full of sarcasm, and their plots are quite complicated and full of the most sober view of human nature in its worst aspects. Everything goes well for them while they are allies, but as soon as they have a serious argument, and their forces turn against each other, they both step on the road of complete ruin.

As you can guess, the book is full of spicy episodes, but there's nothing really offensive there. What may be shocking is the attitude of the two main characters towards their prey - they never give a damn about what happen to people after their plot is at an end. All they care about is themselves, and as this book is positioned as a moralistic one, they get punished for this in the end.

I really enjoyed the book, as I've always liked intrigues. And here not only the plot is entertaining, but also the setting (Paris's high society of the 18th century - who doesn't like it?) and the characters, who are very diverse and real. Needless to say, my favourite was Valmont's aunt, who is a really nice old lady, very kind and tolerant. Cute little Cecile is also so charmingly naive, that you can't stop admiring how nicely she was brought to life by Laclos. But sometimes she is just unbelievably stupid: how can a girl NOT understand that she is pregnant even when she already loses a baby? Unbelieveble.

So it was a really nice choice for a February readalong, as it's a very dynamic and entertaining book. Now I'm waiting to read what others think about it in the end of February!

The Classics Club Group Check-In #2

It's time for the second Classics Club group check-in! It's half a year since I joined the club, and I've enjoyed the experience and the community so far!

As for now my list consists of 63 books, and I've already finished 9 of them! And here's the list:
  1. Shakespeare, William: Macbeth
  2. Shakespeare, William: Twelfth Night 
  3. Balzac, Honore: Eugenie Grandet
  4. Dickens, Charles: A Christmas Carol
  5. Hoffmann, E. T. A.: The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr
  6. Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
  7. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World
  8. Mann, Thomas: Death in Venice
  9. Williams, Tennessee: A Streetcar Named Desire
As you can see, the most difficult here is probably Moby Dick, and I'm really proud of making it through it! But I can say that I enjoyed pretty much all of the books I read) 

I'm currently in the middle of 2 books: One Thousand and One Nights and The Old Curiousity Shop. The former is there in my reader for almost a year, but it's over 3000 pages, and though quite delightful at times, is really very tiring too. The later is the unhappy Dickens I picked in December and which I still can't finish because I just get irritated with stupid meek Nell and her grumpy gambling grandfather all the time.

I'm looking forward to crossing out some (hopefully!) shorter and more dynamic modernist books from my list in March, but really I'm not very good at planning. So far I'm quite content with my progress on the list, so we'll see if I can actually finish it in 5 years =) Wish me good luck!

February 13, 2013

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I like this cover with Munch's "The Scream",
as this picture is actually described in
one of the episodes in the book.
This month we are reading and discussing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Coursera Fantasy and Sci Fi book club, and I'm finally not behind the schedule. Surprise, surprise, I can be organized at times :) But the main reason I wasn't lingering is that I was willing to read this book for a long time already, even since I read Ubik and completely lived it. Philip Dick has a talent for twisting the way we look at the world he writes, to turn everything upside down (and not once) during his stories. And this is the best way to please my brain.

DADOES is set in a post-war world, where people massively migrate from Earth, driven away by the dust, which causes genetic illnesses. There are few animals left on Earth, and they are all kept as pets, which is not only a question of showing one's empathy (obligatory for everyone!), but also a status thing. Real animal is more prestigious than an electronic one, and the bigger and rarer your animal is, the better. And in this world androids are manufactured to help colonization. But, becoming more and more complex and clever, sometimes they run away from their masters and come back to Earth. They need to be "retired", but first they need to be detected by special psychological tests.

The main character is the guy who hunts and kills these androids. But this new task is different from the previous ones, because now it's a group of new generation androids who are very sophisticated and difficult to catch. They also get help from one of the "specials" - a guy, whose brain is already damaged by the dust. And of course the first android of this type that our hunter meets is a nice girl and... well, you know how this usually turns out.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. It's very atmospheric and the whole world makes sense. There is also a lot of moments when you can't guess if some character is an android or not, and I love these small riddles, they add some nice turns to the plot. However, to the end the book slides into more philosophical, religious mood, and some things are not explained - thing I can't stand in science fiction. Somehow it reminded me of the ending of Brave New World, that I reviewed earlier - there the ending was also spoiled for me with some crazy religious stuff. Don't get me wrong - I rather liked how Mercerism fit the world described in DADOES, it is clear how it works, it is clear why it appeals to people. But when the main hero meets Mercer outside the empathy box, and then gets inside the box himself by just driving outside the city... Now, this is inexplicable and completely ruins the picture.

I also watched Blade Runner immediately after I finished reading, and it really differs a lot from the book. Now I can't decide which is creepier: the book has this religious stuff, but the film has eye-squeezing and other horrible episodes. Strangely enough, I loved them both! :)

The Classics Spin!

The Classics Club is organizing a fun event called The Classics Spin! The rules are easy:
  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog by next Monday.
  • Monday morning, we’ll announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
  • The challenge is to read that book by April 1, even if it’s an icky one you dread reading! (No fair not listing any scary ones!)

That's real fun, so I'm joining, and here's my list:

5 I can't wait to read:

1) Eco, Umberto: The Name of the Rose
2) Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
3) Maugham, W. Somerset: Of Human Bondage
4) Waugh, Evelyn: Brideshead Revisited
5) Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway

5 I'm hesitant to read:

6) Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
7) Joyce James: Ulysses
8) Milton, John: Paradise Lost
9) Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables
10) Ovid: Metamorphoses

5 I really don't know what to expect from

11) Stoppard, Tom: Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead
12) Rand, Ayn: Atlas Shrugged
13) Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca
14) Eliot, George: Middlemarch
15) Apuleius, Lucius: The Golden Ass

1 I just can't finish:

16) One Thousand and One Nights

4 Random:

17) Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations
18) Twain, Mark: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
19) Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Lost World
20) Kerouac, Jack: On the Road

So now I'm keeping my fingers crossed while waiting for February 18. Hope it'll be something nice!) But even if it isn't I'll still make some progress, and this is a good thing!


UPD! The chosen number is 14!
Which means I'll read Middlemarch by George Eliot before April 1st. Well, it's not a bad choice at all!

February 10, 2013

A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes
As I was trying to read something light during my January exam session, it suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea whatsoever if I have read all the Sherlock Holmes. Of course I read a lot of Conan Doyle while a child and I've seen numerous adaptations, and I generally consider myself a fan, but have I read all of them? Instead of trying to remember, I downloaded "The Compete Sherlock Holmes" and started at the beginning. Haven't regretted it yet!

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)
For those who don't already know it, it's the first Sherlock Holmes novel, where the reader actually meets both him and doctor Watson. I definitely haven't read it in English, and it's a long time since I read it in translation. So I was really surprised at how small is the part of the novel which describes the actual investigation of the familiar case. The novel seems to be focused on the character of Holmes himself more than on the details of the murder. I was also surprised, that nearly one half of the novel was dedicated to somewhat poetical description of the murderer's story. I really enjoyed the passages about Mormon caravan moving to Utah, about their life there and about the forbidden and tragic love which led to the murder itself. It's no mystery why this novel was and still is so popular: it mixes crime investigation with psychological one, and also adds an adventure and a love story in some exotic (for a Londoner, at least) setting. I rather liked the language too, it's not primitive as some authors of serial detectives adopt, and really beautiful.

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)
The second novel is still more extravagant and plays with the love of treasure hunting which everyone with some imagination tend to love. It starts a year or so later after the first case, during which time Watson was methodically writing down his observations about Holmes, but never participated in any investigations himself. Nor there seemed to be any, as Holmes is taking cocaine on regular basis now as  means of escaping the dullness of the world. With such a lot of cocaine which is only slightly frowned upon, I'm surprised they haven't forbidden or rewritten the book! I'm happy they didn't. Along with many mysterious deaths, escaped convicts, revolts in colonial India and a very dynamic boat pursuit, the novel also has a love story, and with no other than Watson himself! I remember him getting married and moving out from Baker street, but in the second novel? Conan Doyle is certainly not afraid of moving on with things in his novels!

After these two novels there is a short story collection called "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" in my book, beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia, so I'm up to some intrigue next time I decide I need something really nice and distracting!

February 5, 2013

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Artist: Matt Kish
Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all.— Why then do you try to “enlarge” your mind? Subtilize it.
I was reading Moby-Dick since September, and there are reasons for it taking so much time. First, I started to read one chapter a day with Moby-Dick Big Read, and I thought it was a good idea, but you know me: I kept forgetting about the every day bit of reading, so already rather big chunks were waiting to be read for weeks, then I had the end of the semester and exam session... you can imagine. Somewhere halfway I discovered that it's really difficult for me to listen to such a complex text, so I gave up following the audios altogether.

But here I am, having finally finished it and deeply affected by it. This book is so much more than anything I was expecting, that I find it really difficult to write about it. But I'll try, anyway, even if it is just a stream of consciousness.

Well, I'll be honest: it is true that it's a difficult book. Beginning as low as on the vocabulary level you'll have to overcome obstacles concerning a lot of marine words and detailed descriptions of whaling processes. I'm no novice in marine vocabulary, I was specially studying it when I went to sea on a rigged ship, but I still had some problems. But all the words and descriptions add to the atmosphere of the whaling and are really very much in their place in the book, so I wasn't irritated very much ;) Moreover, somewhere on the way I found patell dot org blog, where a NYU professor comments on every chapter, which is really helpful.

On the semantic level Moby-Dick can boast getting the title of the most inter-textual book I've ever read. There's a bit of Bible, Zoroastrism, whaling history, Shakespeare, classification theory.... well, a bit of everything there! But this also makes reading very rewarding, as you can be proud of yourself for knowing things nearly every page! :) That's if you enjoy indulging your snobbishness, which I do.

Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs. So, in productive subjects, grow the chapters.
The good news is that composition complexity makes reading easier rather than more difficult. The book is divided into 136 chapters, the smallest consisting of only 6 sentences! So you'll read through them pretty fast. The diversity of styles also helps a great deal: here you have memoirs, action, drama, encyclopedia, affidavit, historical and literary investigation, etc. all mixed up, so you'll never get tired of the style.

As I now reread everything I have written so far, it seems to be an argument in favour of reading the book rather than a review. Well, maybe it is so because there were a lot of moments I wanted to put the book down and I'm so happy I didn't! I enjoyed some (mostly philosophical) parts of it very much, and I feel very accomplished and proud of myself now ;) And the ending is unbelievably strong, although I will not include any spoilers here.

No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.
H. Melville 
And this is a truly great volume, written on no flea.

February 2, 2013

February and March plans and events

As I'm in the "planning mood", I'm going to write down what I'm going to do in February and later.

February plans:

1) Fanda is hosting a Celebrating Dickens event this February, for which I'm planning to finish The Old Curiosity Shop, that I began to read in December an never finished. But if I don't have enough patience, I'll just give it one more try and give up the book :) Then I'm going to start Great Expectations, which, they say, must be much better.

2) I haven't decided what to read for Rachel's Social Justice Theme Read. I guess Dickens will do and just whatever else comes my way, which suits the theme =)

3) I will be participating in a group read of Les Liasons Dangereuses by Pierre Ambroise Choderloc de Laclos for Delaisse's French February.

4) Let's Read Plays has Shakespeare History month, and this is the type of Shakespeare plays I've never read, so I'm looking forward to reading Henry V.

March plans:

1) Allie is hosting A Modern March event, which I'm really looking forward to. I hope to tackle some of the modernist titles on my Classics Club list, probably beginning with Virginia Woolf.

2) Becca is hosting a wonderful Women's Lit Event, which is another motivation to pick up my first Virginia Woolf. And I'll choose something more later, as reading about amazing women is always amazing!

So there's a lot to do and a lot to read, let's just hope there'll be enough time for all this!

51-60 из "1001 фильма"

51. На западном фронте без перемен (1930, All Quiet on the Western Front). Льюис Майлстоун
            Снято очень близко к тексту и ужасно реалистично. Особенно запомнилась сцена в окопе и разговор с учителем. Так и хочется стукнуть этих пропагандистов-патриотов, рассуждающих про войну, но ничего о них не знающих. Книга, помнится, не произвела на меня такого уж большого впечатления, но фильм смотрится на «ура». Рекомендую!

52. Свободу нам! (1931, A Nous la Liberte). Рене Клер
            Довольно беспорядочная музыкальная комедия с песнями и плясками. Возможно, дело в переводе, но особого впечатления на меня этот ранний мюзикл не произвел. Хотя может быть дело в том, что он предполагался как сатира, но я я что-то ничего подобного не углядела. Современником нужно быть, что ли?

53. Миллион (1931, Le Million). Рене Клер
            Всё те же лица – тот же режиссер, тот же стиль. Но стоило добавить занимательный комедийный сюжет – и вот фильм уже обретает смысл. Двое друзей на протяжении всего фильмы пытаются разыскать пиджак, в кармане которого – выигышный лотерейный билет. И элементы мюзикла совсем не выглядят лишними. Рекомендую!

54. Табу (1931, Tabu). Фридрих Вильгельм Мурнау
            Табу – последний фильм Мурнау, снятый на островах Бора-Бора и показывающий жизнь местных племен во всей её красе. Много колорита и отличные съемки, но сюжет довольно плоский: запретная любовь, бегство... где-то мы все это уже видели, да?

55. Дракула (1931, Dracula). Тод Броунинг
            Несмотря на заметные сюжетные отклонения от книги, этот фильм чуть ли не лучше версии 22 года, а всё из-за великолепного Белы Лугоши, чей устрашающий взгляд уже давно является эталоном настоящего вампирского взгляда. Только посмотрите на него, разве не хорош? J Ну и кадры с «превращением» летучей мыши в Друкулу сняты великолепно – никаких спецэффектов не нужно. Рекомендую!

56. Франкенштейн (1931, Frankenstein). Джеймс Уэйл
            Монстр чудовищно прекрасен, но вот что сценаристы сделали с сюжетом – ещё более чудовищно. Появились подробности создания монстра, которых и в помине не было в книге, дальнейшие приключения монстра тоже совсем не соответствуют канону, да даже причина его озлобления – всего лишь издевательства помощника Франкенштейна (которого тоже кстати нет в книге!). В общем, если Вы с трепетом относитесь к оригинальному тексту, то этот фильм Вас расстроит. Но я всё равно считаю, что смотреть его необходимо, потому что одновременно с уходом от оригинала в фильме зародился свой, кинематографический канон Франкенштейна, который тоже имеет место быть. Рекомендую!

57. Огни большого города (1931, City Lights). Чарльз Чаплин
            Очень трогательная романтическая комедия, классика! Рекомендую!

58. Враг общества (1931, The Public Enemy). Уильям Уэллмен
            Неприятный фильм о неприятных бандитах, котрые хорошо наживаются во времена сухого закона, но потом плохо кончают, к несчастью своих близких. Ну не люблю я гангстерские фильмы, хоть убейте. Что в них хорошего?

59. М (1931, M). Фриц Лэнг
            От этого фильма просто не оторваться! Тут и детектив, и триллер, и психологическая драма. Город сходит с ума в поисках неуловимого маньяка, убивающего девочек. Даже преступное сообщество объединилось чтобы найти его, так как от принятых мер безопасности им тоже не сладко. Но никто не догадывается, кто на самом деле убийца. Я не любитель триллеров, но этот фильм безусловно рекомендуется!

60. Сука (1931, La Chienne). Жан Ренуар
            Забитый клерк влюбляется в женщину легкого поведения и начинает материально помогать ей, думая, что это настоящая любовь, а она в это время продолжает встречаться со своим любовником и планировать, как вытянуть больше денег из её ухажера. Хороший фильм, чем-то напоминающий «Голубого Ангела».

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...