1. AOTW--A version of this happened another time, but here we go again ... At Starbucks ... Monday afternoon ... sitting in one of the easy chairs near the fireplace (Old Man stuff) ... the only surface I can use to place my coffee cup--or lay down my book--is a little table that sits between my chair and my neighbor's (a woman) ... the woman (the AOTW) has decided she needs the whole table for herself and has pulled it around in front of her to accommodate her laptop, on which she is earnestly dealing with an important issue on Facebook, forgetting, I guess, the very term laptop ... I have no surface ... but I do have rage, rage at this week's (selfish) AOTW ...
2. I finished two books this week.
- As some of you know, the Hogarth Press in now publishing a series of contemporary novels based on Shakespeare's plays (link to Hogarth and info). I read the first of them a few months ago (The Gap of Time, by Jeannette Winterson, based on The Winter's Tale), and just this week I finished the second, Shylock Is My Name (by Howard Jacobson). I loved the beginning--Shylock in a cemetery, talking with his dead wife (as he does throughout the novel)--and I liked much of the "modernization" (which includes an amusing take on the "pound of flesh"), but I can't say I was really moved until near the end, when Jacobson used some lines from the play to stab readers right in the heart.
- Shakespeare fans will have fun finding some of the Bard's lines (from other plays, as well) adorning some of the paragraphs. There's some Hamlet, Othello, others ... I'm sure I didn't catch them all.
- The "Shylock" in this story is the actual Shakespeare character--who has appeared in our day; the Shylock story, though, belongs to another character, Strulovich, a wealthy man whom Shylock joins for the remainder of the novel. He, too, has a rebellious daughter, some noxious enemies, etc. Very clever, this.
- I finished Tobias Smollett's Travels Through France and Italy, 1766. a book recommended to me in a Smollett biography I recently read. Some of it was very amusing; some, not so much. (Those interested in living conditions in mid-18th-century Europe will find it revealing.) Smollett has a vinegar tongue, and some of his comments about others (and others' ways) made me laugh aloud (a reaction that sometimes shamed me!). Some examples ...
- "...France is the general reservoir from which all the absurdities of false taste, luxury, and extravagance have overflowed the different kingdoms and states of Europe" (52).
- re: a hotel in Montepellier: "...a most wretched hovel, the habitation of darkness, dirt, and imposition" (85).
- re: French maids in Nice: "They are all slovenly,slothful, and unconscionable cheats" (152).
- I was interested in his visit to Lerici, near the spot where Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned about a half-century later.
- And here's what he says about Cannes: "a neat village, charmingly situated on the beach of the Mediterranean .... I would rather live here for the sake of the mild climate, than either at Antibes or Nice" (313).
- Those interested in art will have fun reading his sections about museums (and other structures) in Rome and Florence. He has some unkind words for "Michael Angelo."
- I have now read the complete novels of Smollett--and a couple of his other books, and ...
- ... I've moved on to Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), whose The Moonstone and The Woman in White I've already read. Have just started his early novel Basil (1852).
4. I enjoyed these words-of-the-day this week from Wordsmith, words whose positive forms are far less familiar than their negative: