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review 2020-06-03 12:37
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Illustrated) and Other Tales By Washington Irving - Washington Irving

by Washington Irving

 

This is one of those classics I've meant to read for years. It's written in an older English dialect that adds atmosphere to the narrative and brings the Dutch communities of New England to life with all their customs and superstitions.

 

Icabod Crane is a schoolmaster who has cast his eye on a local girl, just eighteen. She comes from a family that is as well-off as is to be found in the small community and is also a beauty. While there wasn't as much about witchcraft in the original story as was in the most recent movie version with Johnny Depp, it is mentioned along with goblins and ghosts and especially the tale of the headless horseman who legends say rises from the grave to seek his missing head.

 

The story was a lot more basic than I expected, with the whole ghostly phenomenon more a matter of superstition and practical joking than the tale has grown into with retellings, but it was enjoyable nonetheless to finally read the original material.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-06-03 11:00
Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula
Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula - Bram Stoker,Hans De Roos

TITLE:  Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula

 

AUTHOR:  Bram Stoker

 

ADAPTED BY:  Valdimar Ásmundsson

 

TRANSLATED BY:  Hans De Roos
____________________________________

DESCRIPTION:


"Powers of Darkness is an incredible literary discovery: In 1900, Icelandic publisher and writer Valdimar Ásmundsson set out to translate Bram Stoker’s world-famous 1897 novel Dracula. Called Makt Myrkranna (literally, “Powers of Darkness”), this Icelandic edition included an original preface written by Stoker himself. Makt Myrkranna was published in Iceland in 1901 but remained undiscovered outside of the country until 1986, when Dracula scholarship was astonished by the discovery of Stoker’s preface to the book. However, no one looked beyond the preface and deeper into Ásmundsson’s story.

In 2014, literary researcher Hans de Roos dove into the full text of Makt Myrkranna, only to discover that Ásmundsson hadn’t merely translated Dracula but had penned an entirely new version of the story, with all new characters and a totally re-worked plot. The resulting narrative is one that is shorter, punchier, more erotic, and perhaps even more suspenseful than Stoker’s Dracula. Incredibly, Makt Myrkranna has never been translated or even read outside of Iceland until now.

Powers of Darkness presents the first ever translation into English of Stoker and Ásmundsson’s Makt Myrkranna. With marginal annotations by de Roos providing readers with fascinating historical, cultural, and literary context; a foreword by Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew and bestselling author; and an afterword by Dracula scholar John Edgar Browning, Powers of Darkness will amaze and entertain legions of fans of Gothic literature, horror, and vampire fiction."

______________________________________

REVIEW:

 

I loved the expanded and somewhat altered version of the events that transpire in Count Dracula's castle (more atmospheric, creepier, Dracula's female house guest gets more page time), but the London chapters came across as a hurried and truncated (compared to the original version) plot summary and were rather disappointing.  This lost version was, however, still entertaining.

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review 2020-06-02 22:24
Verily, a Great Entertainment
William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope - Jonathan Davis,Marc Thompson,Daniel Davis,January LaVoy,Ian Doescher

"CHORUS:
As our scene to space, so deep and dark,
O’er your imagination we’ll hold sway.
For neither players nor the stage can mark
The great and mighty scene they must portray.
We ask you, let your keen mind’s eye be chief –
Think when we talk of starships, there they be."

 

"LUKE:
Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears
Wish not we had a single fighter more,
If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To make our planets proud. But should we win,
We fewer rebels share the greater fame.
We have all sacrific’d unto this cause.
[...]
For with the Force and bravery we win.
O! Great shall be the triumph of that hour
When Empire haughty, vast and powerful
Is fell’d by simple hands of rebels base,
Is shown the might of our good company!
And citizens in Bespin now abed,
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here.
For never shall rebellion see a time
More glori’us then our strong attack today!"

Well, of course Doescher channels the Bard's great speeches, but this is not just parody (of either Shakespeare or Star Wars); it's a cleverly-executed synthesis, transposing the complete screenplay(s) into Shakespearean iambic pentameter -- and somehow managing to remain faithful to both.

 

I am glad that I opted for the audio version, though: Just as Shakespeare's plays are best experienced in performance (and, well, George Lukas wrote movie scripts, not novels), Doescher's synthesis of the two really comes to life when performed.  And I have to give huge kudos to the actors who, while they are clearly having more fun than should be permitted, take the work seriously and give it their full attention, all the way from R2-D2's "beep, squeak, squeeeaak"s (Death of Rats, anyone?) and Han Solo's "hey, I'm just here for the money" attitude to the weightier interactions between Obi-Wan, Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader.  (Interestingly, the total length of Doescher's text also falls squarely within the average range of that of a Shakespearean play.)   I'm not one of those who can do Star Wars marathons, nor will I typically watch more than one play by the Bard at a time, so I don't see myself bingeing on Doescher's syntheses of the two sources. But I'm glad there is more than one of these -- they just may turn out to be the things to turn to when my life needs a bit of brightening up.

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review 2020-06-01 14:43
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame - Victor Hugo,Walter J. Cobb

by Victor Hugo

 

This Classic was originally written in French and I've found that the translation does make a difference. I have a paperback copy from Penguin, translated by John Sturrock and my first impression was that the writing was very poetic, but I got the free Kindle version from Gutenberg with a different translator because it's easier for me to read on Kindle and in this one, the first chapters felt overly wordy and dragged a little.

 

I persisted though. I've seen various film versions of this story and didn't recognise most of the names I was reading until we finally meet Quasimodo in chapter five, followed by Esmerelda, though Gringoire who falls foul of the Paris underworld does make an appearance in the old 1939 black and white Charles Laughton version. From Quasimodo's introduction the story digressed into the history of Notre Dame Cathedral.

 

This one takes a little patience because there are many digressions. Life in fifteenth century Paris under Louis the XI, individual character histories and other commentaries on the times all come together to form a very thorough picture of the circumstances surrounding the familiar story line, but they do break continuity.

 

The extent to which Quasimodo's story intertwines with Esmerelda's was never fully expressed in the movies. I found the connections very interesting indeed! And Frollo was given a bit of undeserved bad press, especially by Disney. Movies require a villain and a priest immersed in austerity isn't a sympathetic character, but his reasons for adopting Quasimodo were based in charity, not obligation.

 

Quasimodo's back story is revealed in reverse, first showing us his experience with the Feast of Fools, then later revealing how he came to be ward of Frollo, and after that his origins and how he came into Frollo's path. Then later we move forward.

 

While the book would never get commercial publication in today's publishing market due to the extent of the digressions, the story is well told as a whole and the Classic enthusiast is likely to enjoy the fullness of the description and depiction of the time and place and how it shapes the events of the plot. I'm glad to have read it now and will look on film repeats with a more detailed knowledge of the whole of the story.

 

A worthwhile Classic, for those who have the patience to assimilate a fair bit of history between story events.

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review 2020-06-01 14:35
The House of Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Another Classic ticked off my list. This one was written in 1851 and very definitely has the tone of that era of writing. Very verbose and slow moving, with no real interaction between characters.

 

The story is more about the house than the people, though it tells the story of several generations, mostly of the Maule and Pyncheon families. One of the Maule ancestors was accused of witchcraft and executed, and the house was taken and ended up in the hands of the Pyncheons, though the Maule relatives were the rightful inheritors.

 

There is a curse, a crime mystery and two centuries of superstition attached to the house. The plot was interesting, but I found it very slow reading. I never felt really involved with any of the characters because the style of writing kept them impersonal.

 

Still, I'm glad I read it. I've seen the house when I was on a trip to Boston and Cambridge in Massachusetts and I can see how it would inspire a story. It was actually built for the Turner family in 1668, so the story is completely fiction. This is one for those who really love 19th century stories.

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