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23 january 2015

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a spare, lyrical book. When you put it on a shelf of Newbery Medal books between The Hero and the Crown and The Whipping Boy – no doorstops themselves – it is so thin it practically vanishes.     read more

19 january 2015

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a good silly play. One of my themes at lection is that if some of these minor Shakespearean plays had never had the name "Shakespeare" attached, nobody would pay the slightest attention to them. Certainly nobody would bring the immense forces of scholarly editing to bear on a throwaway 400-year-old battle-of-the-sexes farce if it wasn't by William Shakespeare. But such attention also doesn't hurt. Some Elizabethan plays are recension-proof.     read more

18 january 2015

At one point I was reading what I thought was a lot of Anthony Trollope. Like most half-forgotten things, the scope of this reading project grew as I abandoned it and remembered less about it. I imagined that Trollope had written eighty or a hundred novels, and that I'd read fifty of them; come to find that his output was more like four dozen, and I'd read about twenty. I did keep track of how many pages of Trollope I'd read. After finishing The Way We Live Now this winter, I'm at 14,201.     read more

29 december 2014

The first edition of the well-known play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, appeared in 1603, and included the famous lines

To be, or not to be, aye there's the point,
To die, to sleep, is that all? Aye all:
No, to sleep, to dream, aye, marry there it goes.
For in that dream of death, when we awake,
And borne before an euerlasting judge,
From whence no passenger ever returned,
The undiscovered country, at whose sight
The happy smile, and the accursed damned.
Or marry there it went something like that.     read more