A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ever since high school,  I have avoided Shakespeare like the plague. I think everyone reads Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet in school–it’s pretty much a requirement worldwide. Some unwritten teacher rule. We also did a huge poetry segment in my AP English class, so of course the sonnets were in there. *shudder* I HATE the sonnets. All that Iambic Pentameter and rhyming and perfect structure. I am much more of a free verse poet.

But, EVERYONE knows William Shakespeare. He’s just the Greatest, capital G. And I’m using a lot of heavy sarcasm here, because frankly…I just never really understood why he was so Great, capital G. Ok, he wrote a lot of stuff, and it was all really fancy. But mostly it’s just really hard to read, and that means it’s all terribly interpreted. (Hello, guys, Romeo & Juliet is NOT the world’s gift to love stories.)

Now, though, it’s time to start opening myself up to the things I have been putting off. And that means, yes, even Shakespeare. grumblegrumblegrumble.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually didn’t hate A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It also wasn’t as difficult to understand and follow as I expected. If you don’t know the premise, essentially there are four young people in Athens. Hermia is supposed to marry Demetrius but is in love with Lysander. They decide to run away together, and tell Helena. They think she’ll keep their secret, because she’s been scorned by Demetrius, who she loves. But, she tells him, trying to win his affection. Demetrius follows, with Helena at his tail. The forest fairies intervene, and chaos ensues.

I liked all of that plot. The fae were funny and obnoxious, as they should be. The lovers predictably ridiculous. What I didn’t understand was the whole second plot–the playmakers. What the heck was that all about? Bottom is an ass (ok I get the joke there, William), but I just did not get it. Was it just to make dirty/satirical jokes at the end?

I haven’t looked up Sparknotes to try and figure this stuff out yet. It’s late as I’m writing this up, so maybe I’ll look into it more tomorrow. However, I definitely have more of an open mind about Shakespeare’s plays now, and may have to go back and reread Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet now. Perhaps I’ll be able to follow them more easily. I still hate the sonnets though. Those are not Great, capital G.

1066: The Year of the Conquest

Another late afternoon post. Hopefully next week I’ll be back on track!

Today’s book was a quick read, but an intriguing one if you like history. I needed a simple palatte cleanser after Les Mis and had this one left over from my last batch of library books. It was only 200ish pages, so I figured it would do the trick.

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David Howarth’s 1066 is a short little history on the battle of the Anglo-Saxons vs the Normans. I hadn’t heard this story before–this portion of English history isn’t a piece I’ve studied–so it was interesting to me. Just another bit to file away in my mind palace.

I like Howarth’s writing. It’s informative, but engaging. He’s a great storyteller, which is something you don’t see often in nonfiction history. I’ll have to look up other things he’s written!

Short and sweet for today. Thanks for being patient with me this week! Have a great weekend everyone!

The Name of the Rose

What I am figuring out by reading these Boxall books is that while I don’t always understand or like the plot–I am learning how to read literature. I feel as if I am taking a class. I am educating myself in a way I did not know I was capable of. That is why I set out to write this blog in the first place. I don’t only read for pleasure anymore, I’m actually grasping and remembering what I read.

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The Name of the Rose is one of those books that I definitely did not read for pleasure but I did learn from it. I have pages and pages of notes about the novel…and I can hardly explain the plot.

I can tell you that it’s a murder mystery set in a Catholic monastery in the 1300s. I know who the murderer is in the end, but there are so many details about how the murder was solved that went right over my head.

From a literary standpoint, the authenticity is really good. Umberto Eco obviously did a fantastic amount of research before writing this. I would believe more that this had been written centuries ago–not in 1980. In fact, I had to Google this multiple times to make sure that it actually was written so recently, because I didn’t believe it.

From a reader’s standpoint, however (or maybe because it was so authentically written), the book is completely droll. Anyone picking this up as a crime novel is going to immediately put it down. The main character is obviously based on Sherlock Holmes. The archetype is obvious, and he even is named William of Baskerville. Duh. But the Catholic doctrine and the debate between the Benedictines and the Franciscans and all the others just drowns out everything else in the storyline.

Another extremely difficult barrier to the reader is that the narrator–a young novice priest travelling with William–thinks/speaks in a mix of English and Latin. He speaks Latin so fluently that there is no pause for reader context and explanation of what he is saying. You either have to 1) stop and Google everything he says, or 2) pretend like you know what he’s talking about and move on.

For example:  “In fact, I now saw the girl better than I had seen her the previous night, and I understood her intus et in cute because in her I understood myself and in myself in her.”

“Intus et in cute” means inside and out, but there’s no context in the section to know that without looking it up.

Unless you know fluent Latin…you’re going to find this extremely annoying and frustrating. Sometimes I stopped and translated the phrases, but after while, I just gave up.

I learned some interesting things about the Catholic religion that I didn’t previously know, and I, at the very least, have a good 6 pages of journaling on the break down of this monster. Good enough for me. Not a book I’m going to recommend for anyone, but it was a worthy fight.