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review 2017-03-22 19:37
Review: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams

I talked with my husband and decided to spend an extra night in London so I could see the St Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday. So after saying goodbye to my friends on Saturday afternoon and finally finding a hotel room, I was ready to look at what the nightlife in London has to offer (besides clubs and bars, as I don't drink by myself). I stumbled upon a small (I mean small) theater (the Duke's Theater on St Martin's Place in the Trafalgar Square section) showing a limited run of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. Since the cost of a ticket was just about as much as I paid for a 3D screening of Beauty and the Beast the night before, I decided to take a chance on seeing the play.

 

Here is what I know about Tennessee Williams and his works: he is an American playwright. That's it. I didn't know what the play was about at all, other than there was four characters because the posters outside the theater had pictures of the actors. So I went in totally blind.

 

I am so glad I took the chance - there were moments of laugh out loud one-liners that lighten a rather desperate situation of a family living in St Louis in 1937. The stage was sparse, but functional to help me separate scenes being played out. The actors' performances elevated the material; to be quite honest, I would have DNF reading this play, as the characters would have gotten on my last nerve. This is a play that needs to be seen and heard (so possible audiobook choice) rather than read.

 

 Cherry Jones, playing the role of the mother, took an obnoxious twat of a character and made me care for and hope along with Amanda that her children have better futures than her. Tom was kinda of an asshole character, with a selfish streak a mile wide; however, in Michael Esper's hands, the audience also senses the guilt, the burden of responsibility place on his shoulders, and his frustrations for wanting to live his own life and explore the world. I thought the character of Laura as pretty much simpering wall paper until the James shows up and love brings her out into the world - Katie O'Flynn and Brian J. Smith had some real chemistry and I rooted for them to have a HEA. Alas, it was not meant to be (Betty can go get bent for all I care!).

 

This revival is up for 7 Oliver Awards (the UK version of the Tonys) and I really hope Jones wins in her category and the overall stage production takes home at least one prize. A lovely way to spend a couple of hours. But I am still not going to read this because without the actors', the hissy fits from the mother, Laura, and Tom would just anger me.

 

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review 2016-10-08 21:43
like I was reading it for the first time all over again
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Wisehouse Classics Edition) - Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of the crime novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialized in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson investigate the case. This was the first appearance of Holmes since his intended death in "The Final Problem", and the success of The Hound of the Baskervilles led to the character's eventual revival.

In 2003, the book was listed as number 128 of 200 on the BBC's The Big Read poll of the UK's "best-loved novel." In 1999, it was listed as the top Holmes novel, with a perfect rating from Sherlockian scholars of 100.

What did I think of it:

five stars

this my all time favorite book of Sherlock Holmes, its the very first one that I ever read and since then I've been hooked, no matter how long its been since I've read it , I can still remember a scene from it, this year i decided to not only read it but also listen to it on audio book which I did for free though a website called loyalbooks.com , and while I was listing to it and reading it at the same time it was as even I was reading for the very first time all over again, if you've never picked up a Sherlock Holmes book then this is the one you need to pick up and read .Because its the most accomplished story of Arthur Conan Doyle

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review 2016-08-16 14:59
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

Brilliant!
I understand now why this book is a classic, a favorite to so many, and he is the most translated author of all time. This is literally one of the best piece of literature to graze my fingertips that I have to ask myself incessantly, why the hell did it take me so long to read it?!
But I bought the book so I can read it again and again, and I feel like each time I read it I will take away something else.
I had so many emotions with this book, though none bad. The teachings in it were awe-inspiring. Quotes like, 'Where your treasure is, there will also be your heart' are going to resonate through me for the rest of my life, I bet. 
Look, I'm not going to tell you about the book. I will tell you that if you haven't read it, you really should. It's frigging amazeballs on so many levels.
I can't wait to read more from this author!

 

 

Source: www.fredasvoice.com/2016/08/the-alchemist-by-paulo-coelho-55.html
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review 2016-05-01 09:46
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay

13/4 - I read this about seven years ago, long before I found GR or made an effort to write more than a line or two declaring "I liked this" or "I didn't like this". So, it's been sitting on my 'reread to review' shelf for ages, waiting for me to find the right motivation to read it again. I finally found it in this year's POPSUGAR challenge with their 'A Book that Takes Place in Your Hometown (Melbourne)' category. I was quite excited when I saw that category for two reasons. First because I knew that I would be able to kill two birds with one stone - get a book off the aforementioned shelf and fulfil the POPSUGAR challenge category. Second because there's not that many books actually set in Melbourne. Of course there are lots of Australian authors, Melburnians even, but I can only think of two books that I've read that were set in Melbourne - this one and a true crime that's also sitting on my 'reread to review' shelf. So coming across a book to fit this apparently sparse category so quickly was encouraging.

Anyway, to the book. My main complaint with it is that I don't like open-ended/choose your own ending endings where I have to use my imagination to decide what happened. I just find them frustrating and want to ask the author why the hell they decided to leave me hanging like this. Couldn't they think up something a bit more satisfying? That was what I thought with this book, but then I Wikipediaed the Hanging Rock to learn more of the history and see some pictures and learned something even more interesting. There was an 18th chapter that wasn't published with the original book but has since been published as a separate 'booklet', which reveals what really happened to the girls. I read it and

it wasn't very good

(spoiler show)

. I'm not sure whether I wish I hadn't read it or I'm glad I did because it was

(view spoiler)so weird and completely different from the rest of the book that I have similar reservations regarding who really wrote it as other reviewers do

(spoiler show)

, but at the same time I do now know the secret so the frustration over not knowing is gone, but I have new frustrations because of what I said under the spoiler tags above.

 

*Update* 1/5/16
I just watched the 1975 movie, it didn't improve my opinion of the story as a whole. It was full of synthesised 'woo-woo' music and long 'soap opera' looks that I'm sure were meant to impart some emotion, I'm just not sure what it was (even after reading the book). I'm a fan of Peter Weir (the director) for his movies Master and Commander and Gallipoli but I wouldn't recommend this one, it was just too weird for my tastes.

 

2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Category: A Book that Takes Place in Your Hometown (Melbourne)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-03-27 05:57
The Oresteia ~ Agamemnon by Aeschylus
 
 
The Sacrifice of Ipheginia by Agamemnon (1671)
 Jan Steen
source

 

Agamemnon by Aeschylus
 
"Dear gods, set me free from all the pain,
the long watch I keep, one whole year awake ...
propped on my arms, crouched on the roofs of Atreus like a dog."


Agamemnon is the first of a trilogy of plays called The Oresteia, the next two plays being The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, all performed in 458 B.C., only two years before the death of Aeschylus.  This surviving unified trilogy allows the reader to experience the development of these three-part stories and to observe the common strands of informatiion and enlightenment winding throughout.  Each play would have built support and framework for the others.  However, even though we have all three plays of this trilogy, the satyr play Proteus is lost, as it would have been a type of comic epilogue to finish the Oresteia.

There are two background stories important to the understanding of this play, the first being the history of the Trojan War, and the second the history of the House of Atreaus, Agamemnon's family background.

The "fuse" of the war with Troy was the kidnapping of Helen, the wife of Agamemnon's brother Menelaus, by Paris, prince of Troy.  To get fair winds to sail for Troy, Agamemnon was forced to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphegenia.  The war was fought for ten long years, and at the end, because of outrages committed against the gods, many of the heroes took years to find their way home (Odysseus' journey in The Odyssey is the story of one of these heroes).

The curse of the House of Atreus, adds another element to the play, going back to the family's founder, Tantalus.  Offending the gods, either by attempting to deceive them into eating the flesh of his son, Pelops, or by endeavouring to plunder nectar and ambrosia from the gods, Tantalus was punished in the Underworld by being eternally inflicted with a raging hunger and thirst.  Pelops was resurrected by the gods, but eventually incurred a curse by killing his desired bride's father and fleeing with the girl, Hippodamia.  An attempted rape of the girl by Myrtilus ensued, and when Pelops threw him from a cliff, he cursed Pelops.  The hereditary nature of the curse resulted in the killing of children by their parents and vice versa, a destroying of the whole family from within.

Fleet of Greek Galleys reconstruction
The Perseus Project
source Wikimedia Commons


The play begins with a Watchman who is surveying from the roof of Agamemnon's palace, lamenting the years of watching and waiting for a very important signal, a signal that would indicate the completion of the war with Troy.  The very first lines themselves are a signal, setting a sombre, ominous tone to the scene:

"θεοὺς μὲν αἰτῶ τῶνδ᾽ ἀπαλλαγὴν πόνων .... "  ("I ask the gods for respite from these toils .....")

The beacon is seen and the Watchman rejoices for the return of his king, but the mood does not lighten as the Chorus enters and begins its parados (the chorus' entrance song).

The Chorus consists of elderly men who were too old ten years ago to make war on Troy, but now impart perhaps the most critical information in the play in their back-story:

  • that Zeus was requiring Agamemnon, the eldest member of his family, to act in avenging the insult to his household by Paris, by making war on Troy
  • Agamemnon was required by an offended Artemis to kill his daughter, Iphigenia, to get fair winds to sale for Troy.


Agamemon is put in an unbearable position.  He is protector of his household, therefore to kill his daughter goes against his moral obligation.  On the other hand, if he dismisses Artemis' command, he would be disobeying Zeus which would denote a refusal to fulfill his familial accountability to his brother, an offence against his very being.  He is caught in an inescapable situation. Fate is suffocating him and no matter what his choice, there will be appalling consequences.  His words are seeped in agony:

"My fate is angry if I disobey these,
but angry if I slaughter
this child, the beauty of my house,
with maiden blood shed staining
these father's hands beside the altar.
What of these things goes now without disaster?
How shall I fail my ships
and lose my faith of battle?
For them to urge such sacrifice of innocent blood
angrily, for their wrath is great ---- it is right.  May all be well yet."

Once Agamemnon makes the decision to sacrifice his beloved daughter, his whole character alters.  In spite of her heart-rending pleas, the men who have known her since she was a child, lift her upon the altar.  Although the audience witnesses the poignancy of the preparation of her sacrifice, we are left to imagine her terrible fate.

Le Sacrifice d'Iphigenie
Bertholet Flemalle
source Wikimedia Commons


Meanwhile, Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife and the leader of Argos during his absence, has entered during the Chorus' story, and she announces the fall of Troy, which news the Chorus is hesitant to believe, implying that the populous of Argos is discontent after these long years of war.  A Herald arrives confirming the victory of the Greeks, and proclaiming the return of their king, Agamemnon.  His wife professes overwhelming joy at his homecoming, and in an ironic twist, the Herald is impressed with the truth and majesty of her words.

Clytemnestra (1882)
John Collier
source Wikiart


Agamemnon arrives in regal impressiveness, riding in a chariot with Cassandra, the prophetess and princess of Troy by his side, his winnings from the spoils of the war. Clytemnestra greets him with overblown and excessive oratory, spreading purple carpets for him to walk on.  The king denounces such delicate pomp, yet walks on them anyway, unwittingly proclaiming a rather chilly illustration of his own character and a whisper of his fate:

"Discordant is the murmur at such treading down
of lovely things; while God's most lordly gift to man
is decency of mind.  Call that man only blest
who has in sweet tranquillity brought his life to close.
If I could only act as such, my hope is good."

Again, Agamemnon has idealistic wishes for a good outcome to his struggles, yet he almost seems to realize that it is a futile hope.  The trampling and "crushing" of the purple carpets symbolize his trampling and crushing of all that is delicate and beautiful: Iphigenia, Troy and soon, Cassandra.

Cassandra (1897)
Evelyn de Morgan
source Wikimedia Commons



Clytemnestra attempts to invite Cassandra inside, but she silently resists until Clytemnestra gives up and enters herself, leaving Cassandra alone with the Chorus. Finally, the girl speaks, but the words flowing from her lips are laments and apocalyptic premonitions.  She relates her own story, and also begins to offer vague prophecies of calamity and death, revealing the cause of the melancholy and impeding doom which blankets the city in spite of the return of its king.  She claims to foresee her death and Agamemnon's at the hands of a woman, however, the chorus, bewildered and startled by her claims, refuses to believe her.  Her last words are pregnant with eerie foreshadowing:

"..... That room within reeks with blood like a slaughterhouse ..."

Resigned to her fate, she enters the house.

Clytemnestra (1817)
Pierre-Narcisse Guerin
source Wikiart


Suddenly Agamemnon cries out:  "Ah, I am struck a deadly blow and deep with!"  At this point, the Chorus fragments, undecided and perplexed as to what they should do. When the doors of the palace open, Clytemnestra is standing over the prone and bloody bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra, bringing the Chorus' horror to its peak, as Clytemnestra describes the murder of her husband claiming Agamemnon's evil deed to his daughter as her right.  The Chorus, while still bewildered, finally agrees that judgement between them is unclear and revisits the cause of the war with Troy: the repercussions from Helen's perfidy still resound.

Aegisthus (Clytemnestra's lover) enters the scene, exchanging insults with the Chorus, but Clytemnestra attempts to calm his ire, claiming that the curse has been cancelled by her act of retribution. She and Aegisthus will be able to reign in peace and benevolence. The altercation does not diminish as the play ends.

The next play in the trilogy is The Libations Bearers, and we get a hint of one of its characters in this play, when Clytemnestra mentions that she has sent their son, Orestes, away to safety when there were rumours of unrest in Argos.  In the second play, Orestes returns.

The Funeral Procession of Agamemnon (1787)
Louis Jean Desprez
source Wikimedia Commons



Greek scholars bring out a number if interesting points in this first play that would not be apparent to a modern audience.  The Greek spectators would have been expecting Cassandra to remain silent and have Clytemnestra draw her out, a common strategy in Greek theatre.  The fact that Cassandra actually speaks would have astounded onlookers, therefore making her speeches and presence much more powerful.

They also highlight the masculinity of Clytemnestra, noting the Greek words she uses to describe herself as being very masculine references to a Greek audience.  The fact that she is placed in the doorway of the house ("oikos" - a woman's domain) as the murderess, would have been appalling to the viewers.  While near the end of the play, she attempts to reclaim her sex as woman, the male images of power, vengeance, murder and ruthlessness still remain.

Hubris in Greek does not simply mean pride but instead indicates wanton violence motivated by pride.  Both Agamemnon and Clytemnestra suffer this poisonous quality.

My personal observations ....?   I'm continually impressed by the lack of reliance on plot by the Greeks as they, in fact, often give "spoilers" throughout the whole play or poem. The plot is only the packaging; the real story is born of the intrigues, the capriciousness of the gods, internal struggle, personal sacrifice and vengeance.  How the plot unfolds is secondary to performance, an intense and acute penetration into the soul of man.

Translated by H.W. Symth (Loeb Classical Library), edited by David Greene and Richard Lattimore

 

 

 

© Cleo and Classical Carousel, Years 2014 - 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cleo and Classical Carousel with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

 

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