Recent articles of interest

July 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm (books, Magazines and newspapers, Shakespeare)

First – This speaks for itself. I found it very moving:

“Site of Holy Ark Uncovered in Excavations of Great Synagogue in Vilnius”

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John Granger is obviously a great proponent of the Harry Potter opus. But in “Imagining the World Without Harry Potter,” is he going a bit too far in crediting J.K. Rowling’s magnum opus with saving the habit of reading on Planet Earth? I’m not sure…. (As a great fan of crime fiction, I understand only too well the craving for story  that is ingrained in the human psyche.)

I myself have read only the first of the Harry Potter books – actually listened, to Jim Dale’s marvelous performance on audiobook. When I started the second, I found I was not inclined to go on with it. Nevertheless, I have great respect for Rowling’s achievement, and for the pleasure she’s given to so many readers.

At any rate, Granger’s article is provocative – especially when he castigates the likes of A.S. Byatt, Donald Bathelme, and John Barth – whose Sot Weed Factor I love, BTW – for disdaining the art of storytelling, preferring instead to bore readers senseless with their “literary experiments.”

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I feel no ambivalence about Carol J. Adams’s delightful “Five Myths about Jane Austen.” This piece may precipitate yet another Jane Attack. I’ve already read through the entire canon twice; is Round Three in the offing, perhaps..? Revisiting these wonderful works via audiobook is a distinct possibility, I’d say!

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And speaking of the canon,  Simon Schama, Britain’s gift to these shores, reminds us in this recent Newsweek article of the continuing – might one say, eternal? – relevance of Shakespeare to American life.

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And finally, no one is going to accuse Harold Bloom of reticence in expressing his views on the Zeitgeist in general and  literature in particular. For example, the following appears in How To Read and Why (2000):

…Maupassant is the best of the really ‘popular’ story-writers, vastly superior to O. Henry (who could be quite good) and greatly preferable to the abominable Poe….

Whether Maupassant can make us see what we could never have seen without him, I very much doubt. That calls for the genius of Shakespeare, or of Chekhov.

That’s Maupassant damned with faint praise and Poe dismissed out of hand! Along with many others, I have a deep regard for the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Moreover, in the past year I’ve read a story – “Looking Back” – and a novel – A Life – both by Maupassant and both quite simply superb. I’ll have more to say about them in a later post.

When I found out that Harold Bloom had a new book out – The Anatomy of Influence – I was not sure that I wished to attempt it. But then, upon reading “3 Books on Literary Criticism” by Michael Lindgren,  I thought I might reconsider. This is mainly due to Lindgren’s quoting Bloom’s assessment of contemporary culture; namely, that it is racing “down the cliffs to intellectual suicide in the gray ocean of the Internet.”

Wow.

In fairness, Harold Bloom wrote one of my all time favorite works of literary criticism:

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