logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: shakespeare
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-20 13:14
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 2 - Guy Fawkes Night: Headless Chicken Parade Part 1: Giordano Bruno
Heresy (Giordano Bruno #1) - S.J. Parris

 

Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600) was an eminent Italian philosopher, mathematician, poet, and cosmological scientist, whose theories extended the then-novel Copernican model. Bruno proposed that the stars were just distant suns surrounded by their own exoplanets and raised the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own; and he insisted that the universe is in fact infinite and could have no celestial body at its "center". -- Raised in Naples as a Dominican friar from age 13 onwards, his interest in the writings of Copernicus and Desiderius Erasmus attracted the attention of the Holy Inquisition before he had even turned 30, and rather than become a martyr for the sake of his philosophical and scientific beliefs then and there, he fled from his monastery and from Italy and, having made a name for himself as a scholar in France and attained the patronage of French King Henri III himself, he eventually turned up in Britain in 1583, where he was introduced to Francis Walsingham and agreed to become a spy in Walsingham's network. The Inquisition did eventually catch up with him in 1593, however, and he was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in Rome's Campo de' Fiori in 1600.

 

While you will be able to glean the above biographical facts (up to 1583) from the beginning of S.J. Parris's Heresy and the book actually has an engaging beginning, it all goes rapidly downhill (or it did for me, anyway) from the moment when the first of several murders occurs. -- Parris's book uses details from Bruno's actual stay in England, in sending him to Oxford for a philosophical debate with the then-Rector of Lincoln College, John Underhill (who indeed opposed Bruno's views). The rest of the story is fictitious, however, and I sincerely hope the personality of this book's Giordano Bruno has nothing whatsoever in common with that of the real-life philosopher and scientist, because if it had, it would be nothing short of a miracle how he ever managed to evade the Inquisition and find his way all the way to France and, later, England.

 

As for "Bruno the sleuth," leaving aside that initially there isn't even a good reason for him to involve himself in the investigation into the dead man's murder

(even the discovery that the man was a clandestine Catholic, and that his death may thus fall into the purview of Bruno's mission as a spy, follows his death; there is nothing to make Bruno suspect as much while the man is still alive),

(spoiler show)

the murder and its immediate aftermath are described in such a fashion that anybody who has read Arthur Conan Doyle's

Silver Blaze

(spoiler show)

can't fail to notice one fact pointing very damningly in one particular direction right from the start -- and surely the real-life Giordano Bruno's intellect would have been on par with that of Sherlock Holmes in every respect? And it certainly doesn't get any better by the fact that the one person who thus draws, if not the fictional Bruno's attention, then at least that of this book's reader to themselves in a very conspicious manner, with the same act also eliminates a witness in a manner identical to that used by Ellis Peters in

the fourth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, St. Peter's Fair

(spoiler show)

... and that in connection with a second murder, a few days later, Parris employs precisely the same slight of hand already used by Agatha Christie in

Murder at the Vicarage.

(spoiler show)

 

So, I found myself looking in one particular direction from page 95 onwards, and though it turned out that I had the dynamics between two of the persons involved the wrong way around, I never wavered in my belief that the solution lay that way -- which makes a 474-page book a mighty slog to finish, particularly if the book's alleged super-sleuth is running around like a headless chicken, missing just about ever vital clue that doesn't actually explode in his face, and standing by passively and helplessly and / or letting himself be tricked, manhandled and otherwise be manipulated in a way I'd possibly have expected from a rookie investigator, but not from a distinguished intellectual like the real life Giordano Bruno, who after all had, himself, demonstrated considerable cunning in evading the persecution of the Holy Inquisition and make his way, undetected, all the way from southern Italy to France and England.

 

There is one final twist that I didn't see coming exactly this way around (although I should have, and just possibly might if I'd still cared enough to engage with the book at that point), and I'll also have to give Parris credit for an engaging beginning and for her knowledge of the period -- even though I wondered several times how her version of Giordano Bruno, who had never before been to Oxford in his life, could have the city's layout down so pat within a day at most that the book reads as if Parris had had a map of 16th century Oxford sitting next to her manuscript virtually all the time.

 

Final note to those who don't care for first person present tense narration: There is an excerpt of the series's second book (Prophecy) included at the end of my edition, and while I didn't actually read it, I've seen enough of it to be able to recognize that it's written in that particular narrative voice. (Heresy is not -- it's in first person past tense.)

 

I read this book for Square 2 of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-18 08:05
William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return: Star Wars Part the Sixth
William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return - Ian Doescher

—O knavery

Most vile, O trick of Empire’s basest wit.

A snare, a ruse, a ploy; and we the fools.

What great deception hath been plied today—

O rebels, do you hear? Fie, ‘tis a trap!

~Admiral Ackbar, Act IV, Scene 3

 

Yes, good Admiral, ‘tis a trap! I was lulled into a false sense of security by the general awesomeness of Star Wars meets Shakespeare and everything was going swimmingly—until I was forced to picture Harrison Ford as Han Solo singing a jubilant love song. A trap indeed! Minus half a star for that!*

 

*Not really for that. I just enjoyed this slightly less than The Empire Striketh Back and slightly more than Verily, A New Hope, so I rated accordingly.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-16 20:16
Academic Side-Shows: "Owning Shakespeare” by James J. Marino
Owning William Shakespeare: The King's Men and Their Intellectual Property - James J. Marino

“Those who have taken Heminges and Concell at their word, hoping for some unmediated record of the authorial intent, have made a serious miscalculation. The writer, William Shakespeare, is not to be found in the Folio pages. The figure critics have embraced is an actor.”

 

In “Owning Shakespeare” by James J. Marino

 

Mediocrity has always ruled. And it still rules today, but in a different form. Someone once said that great poetry can no longer be written because we are now all democrats, aren't we? Mediocrity is good these days because it is 'democratic', not because it is aristocratic or Oxbridge elitist. But what we mean by "democracy" here is really bureaucracy. The plethora of creative-writing scholarships and courses promoting the most mediocre work is just one expression of this. For me, I think some of the great Shakespeare debates are side-shows (in Marino’s case the so-called “Sincklo/Soto Problem” in the play “The Taming of the Shrew”, or, should I say “The Taming of a Shrew”?) distracting us from the fact that mediocre values continue to be triumphant in our present poetic culture. I’m sure books and “problems” like these contribute to a true appreciation of Shakespeare unlike the ones dealing with the ill-reputed Authorship Question...Everyone is dancing round their handbags at this party... Once you get into the core truth of what Shakespeare is about - the philosophy, the language, the breathtaking understanding of human nature, the poignancy, you have to concede to a greater power somewhere within. Yes a genius, there's no other word, but surrounded by a core group to feed ideas, information, tales from Italy, the classics, translations (and works not yet translated). But there are so many questions and interrogations regarding Shakespeare: The Authorship Question I mentioned above, Who Edited the 1623 FolioWho Shortened King Lear, etc.

 

If you're into Shakespeare, read on.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-14 01:31
William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back: Star Wars Part the Fifth
William Shakespeare's the Empire Striketh Back - Ian Doescher

Nay, nay! Try thou not.

But do thou or do thou not,

For there is no “try.”

~Yoda, Act III, Scene 7

 

Apparently I was not the only one put off by the excessive use of the Chorus in Verily, A New Hope. Enough people complained that Doescher mentioned it in the acknowledgments of this book and talked about how the criticism shaped his narrative approach moving forward. The improvement is vast. Many thanks to my fellow complainers who came before me. The squeaky wheels really do get the grease sometimes!

 

I went into this with a little trepidation. Empire is my favorite film of the original trilogy and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop my inner pedant from being hypercritical. Fortunately, Doescher hit his stride after tossing aside his chorus crutches and there wasn’t much fault to find in this one. What little faults there may be are insignificant next to the power of Yoda speaking some of my all-time favorite Star Wars quotes in haiku. That was about a million times more delightful than I thought it would be (and I thought it would be pretty damn delightful).

 

I’ll leave you with perhaps my favorite line of this play, which is not a line at all, but stage direction:

[Exit, pursued by a wampa

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-11-11 12:11
Reading progress update: I've read 1253 out of 1344 pages.
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor

Tudor politics: treacherous and dangerous.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?