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27 february 2018

Late in the great Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni's career, he composed a few plays in French for performance in Paris, and then translated them into his native Italian, where they joined the rest of his prolific repertoire. In preparing to read Goldoni with my class this semester, I ran across a digitized copy of a British school edition of Il burbero benefico (1789, translated from Le bourru bienfaisant [1771]), probably published in the 1890s. The provenance of the text is hard to make out – it may actually come from a 1772 translation by Pietro Condoni. But it probably bears some resemblance to something one could have seen on the French or Italian stages in the latter years of the 18th century.     read more

26 february 2018

I'm as prone as anyone else to seeing global history through the lens of "civilization." When I was a kid, I read Hendrik Willem van Loon's Story of Mankind, a civilization-centered master narrative if there ever was one. I wished that my family could afford the multi-volumed Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant, which was continually advertised on the endpapers of the magazines we subscribed to. In recent years I've taught a western-civ course that ranges from Homer to Amara Lakhous and his clash of civilizations over the use of an apartment-building elevator.     read more

25 february 2018

Fatale, a 1977 crime novella by Jean-Patrick Manchette, reminded me a bit of the great 1968 noir film La mariée était en noir: "The Bride Wore Black." It's also reminiscent of The List of Adrian Messenger (filmed in 1963) and similar stories of serial mayhem that have their roots in Agatha Christie (Ten Little Indians) and other "lighter" crime fictions. But in Fatale everything is grim and Grand Guignol. I'll have to spoil it a little in writing about it, but I think it's a book that bears re-reading, if only to admire its audacity.     read more

19 february 2018

Descriptions of Hello, Universe, the 2018 Newbery Medal winner by Erin Entrada Kelly, spoke of its being a gentle evocation of a circle of special friends. I feared I was in for something like the 2006 Medal book Criss Cross, which is so gentle it's stultifying. But Hello, Universe is a little more energetic, and will hold a child's, even an adult's, attention.     read more