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16 January 2017 @ 07:30 pm
Transcript: President Obama on what books mean to him

I've linked to the transcript rather than the resulting article by Michiko Kakutani (who also did the interview) because I think it gives even more of a sense of how deeply reflective President Obama is about the books he discusses: the questions aren't particularly leading, so it's clear that his take on the books is coming from the way that he's turned them over in his head or categorized them, rather than being asked to think about such things for the first time by an unexpected question.
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11 December 2016 @ 09:30 pm
So The Hollow Crown season 2 started tonight at 9 PM?

Why did I have to randomly turn my TV on to find this out??? Was I just supposed to remember this information from that one press release that came out months ago???

Why does PBS never ADVERTISE its Shakespeare programs???

I can't even watch it, because I have work to do! If I'd known, I would have planned ahead!

Jerk move, PBS. Jerk move.

(also, Great Performances never premieres on Sunday; it's always Friday! What is this new nonsense?)
10 December 2016 @ 06:47 pm

The word "grace" comes up several times; so do the words "love of books." I'm still not really able to articulate any of my feelings right now, so it's nice that some other people are doing some of the work for me.

Back in 2008, though - right after the election - I wrote this: "I voted for the [candidate] who talks to us as though we are all Americans, even when we passionately disagree with each other, instead of the one who believes that there is a 'real America' and 'real Americans' and the rest of us can (as my mother likes to say) go jump."

And that's still true, and I'm still grateful for it.

A lot of the time these days, I find myself imitating Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, when she says her goodbyes to the Scarecrow: "I think I'll miss you most of all." I mourn one loss from President Obama's time in office, only to find that there's some new loss I haven't even considered yet, just waiting patiently for me to notice it. Which one will I actually miss most of all? Who can say, really? But this one - having a President who didn't believe in, or cynically use, that idea of "real Americans" - well, it's up there on the list. Maybe not as high as some other fears, but that idea of "real Americans" creates cover for a lot of terrible things… Are we going to go back to the days of policing people's flag pins and running over Dixie Chicks CDs in parking lots? (Although this time I guess it'll be Hamilton CDs, probably...)
10 December 2016 @ 06:45 pm
V&A acquires earliest picture of Henry VIII's lost palace of Nonsuch

The palace itself was sold by Henry’s daughter Mary, then came back into royal ownership when her sister Elizabeth acquired it to settle a debt. It became one of her favourite residences, and Thomas Tallis’s heart-stopping composition Spem in Alium, a motet for 40 voices, is said to have been first performed to mark her 40th birthday by choirs singing from the towers.

The diarist Samuel Pepys saw Nonsuch in 1665, and wrote that “all the house on the outside is covered with figures of story … and most of the house is covered with lead and gilded”. Within a few years it was rubble: Charles II gave the building to his lover Barbara Castlemaine who pulled it down and sold off anything worth salvaging.
10 December 2016 @ 02:23 pm
To Walk Invisible, airing on the BBC later this month:

I'm planning to try teaching Jane Eyre again this year in English 9 after failing at it my first year: we just ran out of time to actually finish the novel; I hadn't realized how long it actually takes to get through The Odyssey while trying to teach students to close-read! But I'm wondering whether it might be fun - if time allows, of course - to also talk a bit about the role of the Brontes in the popular imagination, from their first publication onward. It'll be interesting to see what sort of response this period drama gets.
10 December 2016 @ 12:00 pm
Happy birthday Emily Dickinson! I think about this poem a lot; maybe it will help you too:

To fight aloud, is very brave -
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Calvalry of Wo -

Who win, and nations do not see -
Who fall - and none observe -
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love -

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go -
Rank after Rank, with even feet -
And Uniforms of snow.
26 November 2016 @ 09:10 pm
I am mildly upset that no one told me about this book:

Shakespeare's Ghost - Mary Hoffman

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream onwards, Shakespeare’s plays are often peopled by fairies, witches, ghosts and apparitions. In Shakespeare’s Ghost Mary Hoffman imagines why that might be, by giving the poet a familiar spirit who urges him to include more and more paranormal events and characters in his work.

Meanwhile, Ned Lambert, a boy player in Shakespeare’s own company, The King’s Men, has been having inexplicable experiences of his own, with a beautiful and elusive woman in green, who is not of this world.

It is 1610 and Jacobean London is full of dangers, from the plague to plots and revolutions. And Ned – now a man on and off stage – is caught between fears and temptations. The poet is his friend, as is the popular young Prince of Wales, but is Faelinn friend or foe?

And here's a review:
26 November 2016 @ 12:24 pm
Nice to see the Guardian continuing its inability to understand why anyone would write or read historical fiction as anything other than money-grubbing or facile escapism:

There is no great mystery to why authors and publishers currently favour the past, with so many examples before them of both sales success and prize judges rewarding retrospection; and novelists now have an array of possible role models for how to do literary (as opposed to novelettish) historical fiction in the 21st century, from the postmodernist mock-epics of Thomas Pynchon to the versatile era-hopping of Mantel and Sarah Waters. But as to why so many seemingly do so because they find the British, Irish or American present difficult to deal with - well, that’s probably best explained by writers themselves.

2016 Costa award: why the shortlist is making history
16 November 2016 @ 07:48 pm
I honestly can't decide whether this story makes me feel better about the current political situation, or worse. But here it is anyway:

Coins buried during English Civil War found on farm
08 November 2016 @ 07:24 pm
In case you want to think about something else today - this is the first thing I've heard about this show that sounds worthwhile:

‘Will’: Jasmin Savoy Brown Joins TNT Drama About Young William Shakespeare
(link to Deadline)

I don't know who she is, but she's going to be playing Aemilia (Lanyer) Bassano. So that could be interesting (although I still can't get over that playwright in the trailer being scandalized that Shakespeare "made up words" - like Elizabethan writers didn't do that all the time!).