Category Archives: Books

Books, 2014: 1/52 Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

I decided this year that I would try to read 52 books.  Although I’ve always read a lot and — not too economically — often buy more books than I read, I’ve never set a goal for the year.   Although it wasn’t news to me that reading challenges exist on the internet (after all, when I first started this blog back in the dark ages, all I did was write about books) I have never participated in such.  But, I signed up for this challenge, and hope to link up for at least some of the books that I read this year.  Already, however, I’m a bit behind as I just completed my first book of the year.  Although there are other books in progress, the first book I completed was Nabokov’s Lolita.

What can I say about a book that has been called “the filthiest thing ever read” and yet one of the best novels of all time? (It’s on both Time Magazine & The Modern Library’s List of 100 Best Novels.)   Lolita is a book that I’ve been aware of for years, but didn’t really know much about it.  I knew that it was about a pedophile.   I knew that some criticize it because it seems to glorify that.  I knew that others criticize it because it seems to blame the victim.  I knew that some praise it because of its witty, well-written wordplay.   Things to both recommend and to dissuade a potential reader.  Why did I read it?  Because I wanted to see for myself why over 50 years since it’s publication people still talk about it, praise it, condemn it.

Nabokov wrote in an afterwards to the book (added after the initial publication) that there were three taboos in literature:  the topic of his book,   a book about a happy interracial marriage, and a book about an atheistic humanist who lived a long, happy, productive life and died in his sleep at 106.  I’m not sure that the other two “taboos” would be shocking to an audience today, but his book is still as shocking now as it must have been in the 1950’s.  That the character, Humbert Humbert, is so unremorseful about his attraction, that he is so manipulative, that he is so cunning and deceitful, only makes him more repulsive to the reader.  And yet, as repugnant as Humbert is, I had to read the book to its tragic end.

I don’t think that it is tragic that Humbert is found out.   I don’t think that it is tragic that he kills another man who had helped Lolita escape from Humbert. (Quilty’s motives are not to rescue Lolita; his character, like most in the book, is not admirable in any way.) It’s not even that Lolita leads a dismal horrible life after her escape from Humbert’s clutches, living and eventually dying in poverty.   The tragedy is that it even happens.

I did not find this book “pornographic” as some have labeled it.   I didn’t even find the descriptions of sex in the book to be particularly lascivious or even shocking.  What shocks is that the narrator even thinks about the ways in which he can manipulate things so that he can have sex with a 13-year-old girl.  It is shocking because all but the most naive reader will realize that things like this happen.  All but the most amoral person will know that this behavior is wrong.  But the reader — like so many of the people surrounding Lolita in her life who fall for the charms of Humbert — is charmed by Nabokov’s writing.  Humbert calls himself charming and attractive; as a reader I didn’t believe that and the mental image I had of him was ugly.   The reader doesn’t cheer for Humbert; the reader doesn’t expect him to find the escaped Lolita or to treat her any differently if he does.   Yet, the reader keeps reading to see what Nabokov has in store on the next page.   There are parts of the book that are funny, but you don’t want to laugh.   There are parts of the book where Humbert’s human side is revealed and you see how he can feel love and pity, but you don’t pity him.  Knowing what he is confessing in his story, you cannot get beyond his despicable crimes.  And yet, you keep on reading.

I don’t think that Lolita makes Humbert’s character in any way a likeable, acceptable person. Nor do I think that a close reading of the work makes Humbert a victim of his circumstances, though I know that there have been commentaries of how Lolita was responsible for seducing him.  Oh come on:  that is just wrong, wrong, wrong!   That just doesn’t happen except in the liar Humbert’s mind and is never an acceptable stance when a child has been sexually abused.  Nor do I think that Nabokov was suggesting that.   Humbert is an unreliable narrator.  He is a liar.   How can one believe what he says?   I don’t know how anyone could read this book and find that it does anything but condemn Humbert and his distasteful sexual predilections.   It is shocking to me that because of this novel, labelling a young girl a “Lolita” implies that she is sexually precocious, a flirty child who manipulates to get what she wants.   How did that happen?   I think it says more about our society’s view of sex, rape and power than it does about Nabokov’s book.  Lolita was not sexually precocious.  She did not seduce Humbert.  She was groomed by Humbert, seduced, raped, and manipulated for his own desires.  She was trapped, until she found a way out using the only thing that she had learned would help her:  sex.   Imagine how different this book would be if it had been Lolita’s narration.

I know that there is a bunch of criticism about how the book is a metaphor for old Europe vs post-war America.   Bahhhh!  I could care less.  Nabokov himself disagreed with that criticism saying that he didn’t like stories with a meaning.   As humans, though, we make meaning all the time.  If there is a lesson to learn from this story, it may be that we all rubber-neck at scenes of a tragedy, sometimes not even realizing nor caring what the tragedy is.   Are we better than Humbert?  Well, who would say that they were not?   But it doesn’t mean that we/society aren’t in some ways complicit.

Lolita is a difficult book to say that you “like”.  It is one that I will think about for a long time and won’t easily forget.  I’m not sure what will be the second book I read in 2014, but I hope it isn’t one that makes me feel that no amount of showering can remove the grime from the inside of my eyeballs.

Peaceful Morning

Ingredients for a perfect breakfast:  A cup of java, a slice of orange, a book, served on the deck while listening to the gulls and the surf.   I could do this every morning.

Peaceful morning:  All's right with the world

Peaceful morning: All’s right with the world

But, if I didn’t have the beach, or the sun —  or even the fresh fruit — it would still be near perfect with a cup of coffee and a book.

A cuppa

A cuppa

These are my entries for Kim Klassen’s Texture Tuesday, Cuppa Love edition.

“Recipes” for images:

Beach Coffee:  Canon EF-S 55-250 lens, f/22, 1/200, ISO 400.  Applied Kim Klassen textures Return & Sunkissed.  Applied Elements 8 filter Rough Pastels, Copied layer with Blending of Multiply to burn out edges for vignette effect.  Applied Kim Klassen texture 1301, Added Photo filter “Underwater”, Darkened skies slightly using smart brush tool.

Cuppa:  Lensbaby Composer Pro, Soft Focus optic, F/8, 1/250, ISO 400;  Applied Kim Klassen textures:  1301, Sunkissed & Cherish

An Old Book

I was rummaging at my sister’s today, looking for something at her request in her spare bedroom.   Being easily distracted — I should have a bumper sticker that reads:  “I stop to read books” — I saw a number of old books in a box.  The first to catch my eye was this one:


Toasts for the Times in Pictures and Rhymes, by John William Sargent with illustrations by Nella Fontaine Binckley, was published by Consolidated Retail Booksellers in 1904.   As its title suggests, it is a compilation of toasts.  Many of the toasts are humorous odes to drinking, but some of them are sweet, sentimental thoughts on life.  Like this one, To Friendship:

Here’s to the tongue of friendship;
May it ever hold its sway.
This tongue,while always generous,
Never gives a thing away.

Or this one:   Here’s Hopin’

Here’s to your future, your present, and your past;
May each new day be happier than the last.

Or this one:      To the Boys

Here to the bunch
That can take a hunch,
Nor have to wait for a kick.
Here’s to the bloke
That can take a joke,
And get back at the joker quick.

Each toast is accompanied by a black & white line drawing.


A health to Tomorrow — a good friend, I say,
For, while crowding our happiness into today,
We shift all our burdens of duty and sorrow
On the broad, willing shoulders of good old tomorrow.
Then wait for its coming with hearts full of fear;
But just at the moment we think it is here
We find that it’s only another today.
With tomorrow still twenty-four hours away.

I can’t remember giving a toast that wasn’t much more complicated than “Cheers!” or “Bon Appetite, or A Votre Santé.  It isn’t likely that I’d use one from this book. Nor would this ever be considered great literature or a source of insight into American culture in the early 1900’s.   It likely is only  by some odd twist of fate that this wasn’t pitched from someone’s attic into the trash years ago, instead ending up in a dusty antiques shop where my sister found it.   But reading a book of toasts, mostly given to the joys of libation, from over a 100 years ago, was fun way to pass a few minutes on a cold, snowy evening when the wind is howling.

Although it’s a rarity when I’m able to keep my head up and eyes open past 11 pm, I’ll close with the last toast in this slim volume. It’s only in theory when reminiscing of my youth that I wish I could greet the dawn when calling it quits for the evening.

Here’s goodnight — when we meet again
May mirth exalt the feast;
May we only reach that parting when
The pink is in the east. 

It’s much better for me if I see the rosy-fingered dawn after a good night’s sleep!

Sunday Quote, Cicero (2012, Week 50)

If you have a library and a garden, you have everything you need.   ~ Cicero

Mosses from an Old Manse, Nathaniel Hawthorne, age unknown.  Glasses:  garage sale find.  Came with the book, but do not assist in reading.

Mosses from an Old Manse, Nathaniel Hawthorne, age unknown. Glasses: garage sale find. Came with the book, but do not assist in reading.



Quick! What are you reading now?

It’s been months since I’ve answered one of the prompts on Booking Through Thursday. But I can’t pass this one up!

Just finished:
Wench, Dolen Perkins-Valdez A book about a young slave woman in the 1850’s who travels north with her master — and the father of her children — to a vacation resort. There, over several summers, she befriends three other slave women, also brought by their white masters to the resort. The story of Lizzie’s desires for freedom and for her children to be recognized by her master as his own drew me in. Lizzie is young and naive, but throughout the novel the reader sees her grow in her understanding of the complexities of slavery and how any attempt to escape would hold more risks for her children than for her.

Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson. I don’t usually read mysteries or crime fiction, so I wasn’t very excited to read this when it was chosen by my book group. But, with a very long car trip planned, I ordered the audio version from the library and started listening. Jackson Brody isn’t a typical hero and he is the sort of person with whom I would probably not find anything to talk about if I sat down next to him and needed to make small talk. Which might be a loss because although Brody is a bit of a boorish oaf, there are some interesting things about him that aren’t readily apparent. The book kept me company for 13 hours and while I wanted to hear the last 1/2 hour, I was far too tired to keep driving when I finished my trip! (I finished the book the next day.) Some where in my bookcases, I have another one of Atkinson’s books. I just might have to explore a few shelves, find it, and dust off the cover to see if I can read through another of her books.

Think I might read soon:
Oak: The Frame of Civilization, William Bryant Logan. I checked this book out of the library where it somehow caught my attention several weeks ago. This is the type of non-fiction book that I like: take a seemingly simple subject and explore it in-depth, revealing all sort of fascinating facts, both important and trivial. I’ve started the book twice, each time being interrupted after only a few pages. I’m willing to give it a third try to see if it was just unlucky reading time, or whether this is something that just doesn’t lend itself to reading past page 5. But, I better hurry if I’m going to do that. I’ve already auto-renewed the book a few times and I’ve been reciting a “Do Not Keep Library Books Too Long” mantra for a while now. Not that I’ve followed that.

What are you reading now? Any recommendations for my next read?

What I’ll be reading tomorrow

I stopped into a branch of the library this afternoon to return some books. It wasn’t my usual branch so I felt a bit upended, like when you try shopping in an unfamiliar grocery store: you know what is there, but you’re not sure on which aisle. It seems that it shouldn’t be so in a library, with the Dewey Decimal system and all, but there you have it. I did manage to find my way to the catalog, to the shelves, and last before checkout, the new acquisitions.

It was there that I spotted, in between easy summer beach reads and the latest computer manual, Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott, with Sam Lamott. Lamott is a writer who always makes me laugh, although I don’t always agree with her, and some of her books tire me by the time I get to the last pages even though they are usually quick reads.

I read this on the cover:

…[W]atching Sam changing poopy diapers all the time nearly brings me to tears. My wild son, who like most boys smashed and bashed his way through childhood, with branches and bats and wooden swords who shut down and pulled so far away as a teenager that sometimes I could not find him, ow taking tender care of his own newborn, a miniature who is both unique and reflective. Same is still every age he ever was, from the fetus to the infant to the adolescent to the father. And Einstein would probably say that Jax is already every age he will ever be, but in such super-slow motion relative to our limited perspective that we can’t see the full spiral of him yet…”

I liked this idea of looking at one’s grown child and seeing every age that he has ever been.

A few days ago, while in the midst of one of my cleaning/pitch everything sprees (they don’t happen often, but when they do, I go with it!), I threw a small pocket-sized day planner in the trash can. A few minutes later, I fished it out to see what was in it. Really? I haven’t used a planner this century. What could possibly be in it? A bunch of numbers for old land lines?

I started thumbing through the address book. It didn’t occur to me at first that the only names in it were family. And then I turned to the notebook pages and found a note I wrote to my son July 14, 2001. Why? I wondered, would I not have given it to him?. Then I realized that I had given him the entire planner the first time that he went on an extended trip without any family members. He was 12 when he ventured to Scotland and England on a choir tour.

I read the letter and realized that much of it I could have written to him when he moved half-way across the country last week.

…I am so proud of you. I know that you have worked very hard to be ready for this….I see what a neat kid, a nice young man, you are now and are becoming every day.

I wrote about how he was very observant and that he would observe lots of new things being with a group that was not his family and in a foreign country, but I hoped that he would recognize mostly commonalities, not differences. I was thankful that he had put up with my over-protectiveness and “weirdnesses”.  I knew then, apparently, that he must have been aware on some level of my angst about his going. I closed with this:

Have fun. Sing joyfully. Act responsibly. Smile. Be thankful for the blessings in this life. I am proud of you & love you.

I could see then his past ages and glimpse ages to come. Just like last week as he left to start the adult chapters of his life. I could have said the closing paragraph of that letter verbatim and every word would be appropriate. I can see all of the past ages of him — and saw all of the ages to come as the loaded car pulled out of the driveway.

Last night, a few hours after giving him some suggestions over the phone for fixing a error-prone laptop, I received a text:  Thanks for the Help Desk advice.  I love you.  And not just for the computer help but for all of the mom stuff.

Sometimes your child’s current age is easy to see, which is particularly good at this moment in time because I can’t think of him as being a kid anymore.  I think this may be a good time to read Lamott’s book.

And the soup was still hot

I was saddened today to learn that the gifted and delightfully grumpy Maurice Sendak has died at the age of 83. I remember first reading Where the Wild Things Are in a children’s literature class in college. I thought it was a wonderful book and it was one that I gave as a gift to nieces, nephews and children of friends for many years. Little did I know that one day I would have a boy just like the mischievous Max, who would often sail over a year, in and out of weeks and through a day to where the wild things lived. My son is now grown, graduating this week from college and ready to begin his own adventures in adult living, hopefully without too much wild rumpusing. When I heard that Sendak had died, I went down to my son’s bedroom, virtually abandoned the last few years he has been away at school to see if a copy of Sendak’s book was on the shelf. It was. It was fun to read it and smile.

I didn’t see this when it originally aired last winter, but below here are links to two videos (Part 1) (Part 2) of Sendak being interviewed by Stephen Colbert. I think that Colbert had met his match!

Here is a dramatic reading of the text, with some of the illustrations animated.

And, although it seems all kinds of wrong, here is Christopher Walken reading the work, with his added commentary and interpretation. Walken makes is sort of perfect, I think, in some sort of alternative universe, where wild things are, of course.

Blue Nights, Joan Didion

There was a time, about 25 years ago when I thought Joan Didion was the best essayist around.   I thought she was a no-holds barred writer who was insightful and spot-on with her cultural commentary. At a certain point, in the mid-80’s, I had read each of her published books. I liked how her essays were often a composite, a layering of image upon image. Her sentences were lush, verdant, expansive in portraying a scene.

And then she would hit you.

With one sentence.

Or two.

All the reader was left to do was to wonder, perhaps murmur “Wow!” as you found yourself agreeing with her, seeing her point, knowing she was right, even if it was contrary to all that you thought you believed in.

But maybe that was just because I was 25.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped reading Didion. It wasn’t for any particular reason, or a dislike or shift in political persuasion. It wasn’t because I felt somewhat manipulated by Didion’s work, or found it dark, though both were true. She just fell off my reading radar for 20+ years. When she published The Year of Magical Thinking in 2005 about mourning the death of her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, I thought that I might read it, adding it to the never-ending ‘TBR’ list. But, it never bubbled to the top of that list, still floating around back in 2006. The other day at the library, making my way to the checkout desk with a stack of books in my arms, I spotted Didion’s latest work Blue Nights on the “New in Paperback” shelf. I quickly added it to my tottering stack.

I didn’t know much about Blue Night other than it was a memoir about the death of her daughter Quintana, which occurred not long after her husband’s passing. I had read somewhere (I cannot find the post — if it’s yours, let me know so I can credit you!) on a blog about how Didion’s memoir was whining, like a young child’s rant, and she just needed to grow up and accept things as they are. I didn’t think about this criticism, though, until I started to read the book.

This was never supposed to happen. As soon as I read this sentence, I thought of that blog post.  It jarred me from the beautiful — and beautifully manipulative — prose of Didion’s work. This was never supposed to happen. Isn’t that what we all would think, at some point, when struck by numerous sharp blows to our families in a short period of time?

I both loved and hated this book. I loved how Didion takes the reader through multiple layers of time. You’re in the present, then you’re at Quintana’s wedding where a riff on stephanotis leads back to the house were Didion and her family lived when Quintana was in high school. Suddenly you’re in the story of Q’s birth and adoption or Didion and Dunne marveling at how beautiful a school-aged girl — their school-aged daughter — is as she walks down the hill to school. In this regard the book is lyrical. And then comes the Didion punch: the reader is back in the present with Didion in her grief, sympathizing with her that this was never supposed to happen.

In among the memories that haunt her, Didion ponders the aging process. She observes how others have had loved ones die — her niece, her dear friend Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter Natasha, a family friend — but these are always told from her point of view, how the death affected Didion, what Didion remembers, not how the death affected the immediate family. I find this odd. I find her discounting of what doctor’s tell her about her physical state and her rejection of the toll that age is taking on her (at age 77) to be equally alarming. And this is what I dislike about this book: its narcissism. This was never supposed to happen to me seems to be Didion’s theme.  This self-centered, privileged attitude pervades this work.

I’ve lost a parent; I’ve experienced chronic illnesses in loved ones; I’m caring for elderly family members, watching them fight to not go gently into that good night as they struggle to hold on to memories fragmented into beautiful but unrecognizable kaleidoscopic images by plaque in their brains. But, I’ve never lost a child. I cannot empathize, only sympathize. Perhaps one never does truly “get over” it; I don’t think that I would want one to. I would not want to. I can realize, not being on the grieving side of the equation — that unbalanced, no explanation possible side — that we all wish that such things were never suppose to happen.

But they do happen. To all of us. We get old. Our children become adults and make decisions without us. Our bones deteriorate and our skin sags and we can’t wear high heels any longer without risking serious injury. It is suppose to happen. The best we can hope for is that we don’t outlive our children and that our memories, as frail and fragmented and selective as they might be, are enough.

Perhaps Didion is right: grieving is the “blue night” — that prolonged twilight of late summer where the sky remains a deep, deep blue before the final light fades —  the warning of the darkening of the brightness in our lives.

This post is part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge. This is day 4, which is, of course, the letter D.   Thanks for stopping by and reading.  I’d love to know your thoughts on this book, or on grief in general.   To read others participating in the A to Z Challenge, click on the graphic.   You can find an index to my A to Z entries here.

Year’s End – All the cool kids do a wrap up

There are traditions during the last week of the year that are just as certain to occur as those pre-Christmas traditions we’re all familiar with. The calendar turns to 12/26 and you can expect enormous crowds at the mall, long waits if you order a pizza delivery for dinner, kids starting to get restless with nothing to do, parents counting down the days until Winter Break is over. And, everybody seems to do some sort of year-in-review or “best of” list.

The Best of Lists are something that pull me in every year, even though I often claim that they are ridiculous exercises. Best movie? Best play? Best book? Best Travel Destination? Top News Story? Best Restaurant? Best Politician — oh, wait: that would be too short of a list!

Yet, I often find these same lists fascinating because the only criteria for judgement is the calendar. One could just as easily look at the “best of” anything for the last week, or month, or decade, although I would have a hard time remembering much of some categories if I were going back over 10 years. Only the very best would withstand that test of time. And maybe that is both the point, and the foolishness of such lists. Would I only include some items on my “best books” because I read them recently? Is it the last one that always seem the best? If my time period were longer, would I decide that the book I read in October or the play I saw in April were not really that excellent after all?

And how do you winnow such lists when there may be no common characteristics between two works other than the fact that you engaged with both of them over a 12 month period? My husband asked me recently which of two plays that we saw this year was the best. We actually saw more than a dozen plays, so I wondered why he narrowed it to the two. But, I couldn’t decide between those two plays — a revival of Arcadia and Jerusalem. We saw several operas as well — I wouldn’t have been able to narrow that list either. Same goes for movies and books. If I remember them, it is because I either really liked them, or I hated them. It’s like picking one’s favorite child: can’t be done.

That said, here are some of the art/literature/theatre things that I experienced this year. I’d recommend any of these, although some of the theatre performances have long since closed.

Patti Smith’s Just Kids — a wonderful memoir that reminds you, no matter how different your life is from Smith’s that we were all once “just kids” trying to make our way in the world, figuring out our lives and loves. Smith seems to have maintained some of that innocence, without being smarmy. After all, she is Patti Smith.

Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I got lost in this novel, and even though the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it could have been, I still cried at the end. I thought that Patchett could have delved into other questions about women extending fertility than she did. I just finished reading this, so it would be interesting see what I think about this next December.

Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. One of those books that could be characterized as a ‘sweeping epic’, covering the lives of twins from birth til death, across countries, continents, love and revolution. There are still scenes from the book that come back to me in entirety seven months after having finished it. This will certainly be a book that I re-read.

Coriolanus — I saw a special screening of this in October & Ralph Fiennes spoke afterwards. (Ralph Fiennes = Squeee!) It’s rough, it’s violent, it’s Shakespeare in a modern setting — things that might put me off. Don’t let it. It IS relevant in it’s modern setting, right down to the occupy-like crowds of protestors. (I saw this two weeks after OWS started, and on the day when I wandered down to Zucotti Park to see what the Occupy movement was about. The irony was not lost on me.) Go see it when it opens in a theatre near you.

Midnight in Paris Made me fall in love with Woody Allen all over again and pushed Hannah and her Sisters from its long-held perch of best Woody Allen film ever.

Moneyball. I don’t like baseball and don’t care much for Brad Pitt. Loved it anyway!

Bill Cunningham, New York. Every time I’m in NYC and anywhere near 57th & 5th, I am always a bit hopeful that I might see Mr. Cunningham riding his bicycle and taking photographs of interesting people. I rarely miss one of his photo essays in the New York Times. The tagline in the movie trailer: “Photographer. Perfectionist. Loner. Maverick. Visionary.” One of the best documentaries I have ever seen. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to go see it again, immediately after I saw it. It’s now playing on NetFlix. Cunningham may be all about fashion, but the movie is about so much more: it is about one man’s passion that has been his whole life.

The Ring Cycle. The first of the Ring Cycle was aired by the Metropolitan Opera Fall, 2010, but Operas 2 & 3 of the cycle were this year. I swore to my husband when he first coerced me into going to the opera that I would never sit through the entire Ring Cycle. What I would have missed if I had not. Still not sure how happy I would be after attending four long operas in a week’s time, though I’m willing to try. (I have tickets for next Spring at the Met, though it is unlikely now that I can work out the logistics of going — want to buy the tickets? Email me.)

While Wagner’s Ring Cycle is not a freshman outing for the novice, if you are unsure about opera, attending one of the Met’s Live in HD series is a great introduction. And you can have popcorn, too!

Aradia I went home and stayed up all night reading the script. I’ve read it twice since seeing the play during the last week of its run last April. I adore Tom Stoppard. I can’t think of anyone else who could write an amazing play with characters in two different centuries about English gardens, pomposity, infidelity, mathematics, quantum physics, love, obsession, insanity and rice pudding. And, rice pudding is integral to the plot. You can’t stir out the jam!

Jerusalem This play made me think for weeks. Mark Rylance plays a modern-day pied piper living in a trailer at the edge of a forest, giving drugs and booze and a safe haven to disaffected youth. I also saw this during the last week of its run. The entire cast headed back to London to reprise the play there. There are parts of the play that I think are lost on Americans, but it was still something that I’ve thought about and discussed many times since I saw it in August. I still debate whether Rooster was hearing giants or bulldozers at the end.

War Horse I said Neigh! when T first described this play to me. I was wrong. From what I’ve read of the movie, I don’t think that it is at all like the play. I was fascinated not so much by the story of the boy’s devotion to his horse, but the idea of a ‘modern’ war changing how war was waged and how tanks and barbed wire made the cavalry obsolete before the end of the war. The puppets were great, not cheesy as I pictured them beforehand.

Royal Shakespeare Company/Lincoln Center Festival (Romeo & Juliet, As You Like It, Julius Ceaser, The Winter’s Tale) It’s a HUGE committment to see 5 plays in 3 days. I gave my ticket to King Lear to my cousin who gave my husband and I a place to stay for the weekend, and although I would have liked to have seen Lear, I needed a break! I loved every one of the 4 plays that I saw. I don’t think that the RSC has a monopoly on doing Shakespeare, but this ensemble, who has been working together for three years, gave fantastic performances. It’s a toss-up between whether I enjoyed Romeo better than As You Like It, but I don’t have to decide: they were both favorites! I will always remember Jonjo O’Neill as the sexist, most manic Mercutio I’ve ever seen.

More Dance than Theater (if that even makes sense!)

Sleep No More (Finally, something that is still open.) If you’re in NYC, go experience this! Imagine a theatrical dance performed throughout a six-story warehouse, which requires you to walk — no, run! — after the characters as they perform scenes in an order that has no continuity with a plot. You may wander into an apothecary, through a maze, into a graveyard where Macbeth pleads with the stars to hide their fire before a rendezvous in Lady Macbeth’s bedroom, or find yourself at a witches’ rave, or see Macbeth murder Duncan. And then there is the whole other thing happening concurrently: a nod to Hitchcock vibe with a secondary story reminiscent of Rebecca. Part do-it-yourself adventure, part film noir, part dance, part haunted house: all a lot of fun and a memorable experience. This isn’t a “play”, but it is theatre that will immerse all of your senses. I’ve “seen” it twice and would go again if I could. Wear running shoes and contacts instead of glasses; the audience must wear masks.

Who is really the performer if the audience wears a mask?

Septimus and Clarissa Part dance, part play, this was an innovative adaptation of Mrs. Dalloway. Fascinating theatre.

Books, Art: Reflecting Life

I recently came across this video, part of the Metropolitan Museum’s Connections series, an interesting view of books from Ken Soehner, Chief Librarian at the museum. I almost didn’t watch this video because of the quote on the cover page about not having a ebook in a portrait: it seemed a bit pompous. But, I did watch it, and I don’t think that quote, out of context, reflects the entire piece. I love what Soehner has to say about the scent of books, the tradition of books in art, and the place and meaning of books in lives throughout history.

I am glad that I can read ebooks, but I will never get over the sound, feel, smell of books. This also reminds me that before there were books in their present form, the written word — and stories — existed in other forms. A case, I think, for the book in electronic form, as well as its existence along side the book in paper and ink form.

The other bit that I like about this is what he has to say about Van Gogh and books. I read once that Van Gogh suffered from hypergraphia, a obsession with writing and a compulsion to write. I never made the connection, though, with the books in his paintings or saw them as an extension or symbol of the artist rather than his subject.

Watch the slideshow here.