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text 2020-05-22 18:17
Friday reads - 22.05.2020
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo - Tom Reiss
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays - Oscar Wilde
Murder in the Mews: Four Cases of Hercule Poirot (Audio) - Agatha Christie,Nigel Hawthorne

Ever since the pandemic / quarantine situation has started, I´m even more of a mood reader than I usually am, craving a specific genre for a week or two and then all of a sudden, I´m craving another genre.

 

For the last two weeks I´ve been in the mood for reading classics. But now, after having reread Miss Buncle´s Book, I´m in the mood for re-reading another book. And yet, I´m still not entirely out of the classics phase and I have a slight urge to read fantasy as well. In a nutshell: my reading is all over the place.

 

Looking at my shelves, only The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy fulfills all these criteria. And I´m a stickler for reading books in order, so The Hobbit is going to be one of the books I will be reading over the weekend.

 

I started The Black Count a couple of days ago and I´m slowly working my way through it, reading a chapter here and there. So far it´s incredibly fascinating to learn more about Alexandre Dumas family and how their story has influenced his writing. 

 

I plan on reading the last two plays by Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest and other Stories collection. I already loved "The Importance of Being Earnest", "Lady Windermere´s fan" was a pretty strong play as well and yesterday I have read the play "Salomé", which I didn´t like at all. The two remaining plays are "A Woman of no Importance" and "An Ideal Husband".

 

And my audiobook at the moment is Murder on the Mews by Agatha Christie. This collection of Poirot short stories is not one of my favorites by her and I didn´t enjoy Nigel Hawthorne´s narration of the "Murder in the Mews" short story very much. Luckily the next story in the collection is narrated by Hugh Fraser.

 

Have a nice weekend everyone and happy reading :D

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review 2020-05-14 15:33
The Persians and Other Plays
The Persians and Other Plays - Alan Sommerstein,Alan H. Sommerstein,Aeschylus

The Persians and Other Plays is a collection of plays and commentary about plays by Aeschylus (525/4 - 456 BCE). 

 

The book contains the following:

 

The Persians

Seven Against Thebes

The Suppliants

Prometheus Bound

 

Each play comes with a thorough introduction of the play itself as well as details of what we (think we) know about the history of the play's performances and how they may have influenced other Classical plays and playwrights, references in which inevitably have been used to date the plays themselves. 

This is followed by more commentary and notes on the plays and on related plays that may have existed.  

 

For example, it appears from the commentary that it has long been unclear in what order Aeschylus wrote the plays:

The production of 472 is the only one by Aeschylus that is known to have consisted of four plays whose stories were, on the face of it, unrelated - indeed, they were not even placed in proper chronological order. The first play was Phineus, about an episode in the saga of the Argonauts. This was followed by The Persians; then, jumping back to the heroic age, by Glaucus of Potniae, about a man who subjected his horses to an unnatural training regime and was devoured by them after crashing in a chariot race; and then by a satyr play about Prometheus ("Prometheus the Fire-Bearer" or "Fire-Kindler"). Repeated efforts have been made to find method behind the apparent madness of this arrangement, so far with little success.

As entertaining as it is to imagine someone making a simple mistake when noting down the running order of the plays in Ancient times, this must be quite frustrating to Classicists.

 

It took me way longer to read this collection than I thought but I don't regret a single minute of it. 

 

While some of the concepts discussed and displayed in the plays were not instantly recognisable to a 20th- and 21th-century reader, the context an explanatory notes provided by Alan H. Sommerstein was so excellent that each of the plays not only made sense but actually made it a joy to discover how Aeschylus' may have raised smiles in some and incensed others of his audiences. 

 

And some ideas and points of view in his plays - especially the description of the Persian's defeat (in The Persians), the exposition that women may refuse marriage (in The Suppliants), and some of the rather humanist views of Prometheus (in Prometheus Bound) - we quite different from what I had expected. Or rather, different from what I have come to expect from the Ancient Greek world when coming to Ancient Greek drama after reading the Greek myths (in whichever version: Apollodorus, Ovid, or any of the modern retellings). But even coming to Aeschylus with some familiarity of other playwrights such a Sophocles, I found Aeschylus surprisingly empathetic, satirical, and ... oddly modern.

CHORUS: You didn't, I suppose, go even further than that? 

PROMETHEUS: I did: I stopped mortals foreseeing their death.

CHORUS: What remedy did you find for that affliction?

PROMETHEUS: I planted blind hopes within them.

CHORUS: That was a great benefit you gave to mortals.

PROMETHEUS: And what is more, I gave them fire.

It is easy to think of Prometheus only as the rebel who went against Zeus' wishes and brought fire to mankind, but there is more to him. I loved how Aeschylus focuses not on the fire-bringing alone but also on his shared humanity, and on the prophecy that Prometheus knew of that would lead to the decline of Zeus' power, the proverbial Götterdämmerung of the Ancient Greek gods.

 

PROMETHEUS:

It's very easy for someone who is standing safely out of trouble to advise and rebuke the one who is in trouble.

I knew that, all along. I did the wrong thing intentionally, intentionally, I won't deny it: by helping mortals, I brought trouble on myself. But I certainly never thought I would have a punishment anything like this, left to wither on these elevated rocks, my lot cast on this deserted, neighbourless crag. Now stop lamenting my present woes: descend to the ground and hear of my future fortunes, so that you will know it all to the end. Do as I ask, do as I ask. Share the suffering of one who is in trouble now: misery, you know, wanders everywhere, and alights on different persons at different times.

 

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text 2020-05-03 10:48
Daviot (Tey) - Dickon - Act I, Scene 5
Plays I: The Little Dry Thorn / Valerius / Dickon - Josephine Tey,Gordon Daviot

MORTON:

Oh, come! Why should four distinguished members of the Council—(He enumerates them with a wave of his hand)— The Archbishop of York, Lord Hastings, Lord Stanley, and the Bishop of Ely, be held to require supervision?

You fret, Hastings, you fret.

We should be thankful that things go so smoothly.

 

HASTINGS:

You think so? When you have campaigned as long as I have, you can smell trouble.

Many a time I have looked at a countryside where not a leaf was stirring, and smelt the ambush in it.

LoL. In my head, I may have read Moreton's lines, and especially the line "You fret, Hastings, you fret." in a Belgian accent. 

That's very inappropriate of course, but I guess some books have left an impact.

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text 2020-04-12 23:13
Reading progress update: I've read 5 out of 249 pages.
The Persians and Other Plays - Alan Sommerstein,Alan H. Sommerstein,Aeschylus

The production of 472 is the only one by Aeschylus that is known to have consisted of four plays whose stories were, on the face of it, unrelated - indeed, they were not even placed in proper chronological order. The first play was Phineus, about an episode in the saga of the Argonauts. This was followed by The Persians; then, jumping back to the heroic age, by Glaucus of Potniae, about a man who subjected his horses to an unnatural training regime and was devoured by them after crashing in a chariot race; and then by a satyr play about Prometheus ("Prometheus the Fire-Bearer" or "Fire-Kindler"). Repeated efforts have been made to find method behind the apparent madness of this arrangement, so far with little success.

Bwahahaha. I can't help imagining someone making a simple mistake when noting down the running order of the plays in Ancient times and then fast-forwarding to Classicists from all over the world being puzzled by this.

 

Anyway, I also learned so far that plays in Aeschylus' time were also subject to political censorship. They had a system of fines. Playwrights also rewrote plays or made alterations to evade fines, and some of those censors must have been rather thick not to spot that the underlying message had not changed. Apparently, The Persians may include elements of this.  

I love this kind of subversion.

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review 2020-03-26 23:21
Zero Hour (Power Plays #7)
Zero Hour (Tom Clancy's Power Plays, #7) - Tom Clancy,Jerome Preisler,Martin H. Greenberg

Precious stones, secret technology, and black-market deals plus New York City makes for an interesting combination that slowly finds UpLink getting involved via an unexpected source.  Zero Hour is the seventh book of Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jeremy Preisler who brings together secondary characters from previous books to join the main cast.

 

Patrick Sullivan leaves his mistress’ apartment to meet his buyer of artificially created sapphires as well as plans for a laser gun codenamed Dragonfly but is killed by his buyer and becomes a missing person.  Sullivan’s employer, a Pakistani national who doesn’t know Sullivan stole the plan, is planning to use the laser gun for a massive terrorist attack by releasing a deadly acid vapor cloud over New York City as well as sell the other prototype to Muslim freedom fighters in Kashmir.  Sullivan’s wife goes to an UpLink employee who was his last meeting and asked for Sword’s help—thanks to newspaper reporting on UpLink’s help to find the Russian conspirators who attacked Time’s Square—to find her husband.  The employee goes around the local Sword leader to Roger Gordian to ask for the favor forcing the new UpLink CEO to send Tom Ricci to New York to investigate the matter.  Ricci and the local Sword leader discuss her investigation into Sullivan’s employer on what to do with the Sullivan matter then Ricci goes to upstate New York to spy on Sullivan’s employer and sees men packing things into a U-Haul that he tails to a nearby motel and has a local Sword operative observe it while learning where it was rented.  Unfortunately, one of the terrorists make the lookout and arrange an escape, but Ricci meets with Sullivan’s murderer and learns about the Dragonfly that he connects with where the U-Haul was rented.  Ricci leads a Sword team that intercepts that van just before the laser gun was powered up.

 

Honestly the above synopsis is leaving out two subplots that at the end of the book amounted to just taking up space even though one was entertaining and had potential to add to the overall story but fizzled to nothing.  Upon ending this book it wasn’t hard to rate this the worst book of the Power Plays series as nothing really came together and Preisler focused on characters who in the end amounted to nothing in the overall scheme of things while a character study on Ricci was underwhelming.  And as one of the shortest books in the series it really tells and exposes one of the biggest weaknesses of Preisler’s writing.

 

Zero Hour is short and devoid of coherence in the various narrative threads while focusing on characters that in the end did not having anything to do with the endgame.  Jeremy Preisler has written some good installments of this series, but all the things he’s done wrong in the so-so installments were on display making for a disappointing book.

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