Thursday, December 20, 2012

Catching Up on The List

44. Henry IV Part I by William Shakespeare

Falstaff. Prince Hal. Hotspur.

I read this a couple months ago for a class and that's mostly what I remember, these three characters. Buddies Falstaff and Hal are complex, violent, and continually at one another's throats. Both blame each other for their licentious indulgences in drink, women, and robbery and it's hard to tell who's at fault. One can't help agreeing with the earthy Falstaff's defense of living through deceit (because appearing to be alive when dead is the greater deceit) and rooting for Hal when he gets to redeem himself in battle.

Hotspur is just Hotspur, hotblooded, violent, and angry, but he makes an interesting foil for the supposedly less honorable Hal. And what does one do with a character that succeeds in battle, but doesn't know how to live without it?

I've been warned off of them, but the more of Shakespeare' s histories I read, the more I wonder why they aren't read or performed more. They're no more or less "boring" than the non-histories.

45. Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes

I read this in the hospital and all I can remember is that the language was pretty. Nothing much happens in Frances Mayes' books, and they can be hard to get into, but they're just such a langourous, poetic, thoughtful joy.

46. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

My full review will be posted on Saturday.

47. Order and Disorder by Lucy Hutchinson

Lucy Hutchinson wrote in the seventeenth century and was among the earliest Englishwomen to be published. Only the first five cantos of Order and Disorder were published in her lifetime, a subsequent fifteen were found after her death, and at first all were incorrectly attributed to her brother (a situation that I imagine was more common than we even know). Hutchinson also wrote her own memoirs and those of her husband, who signed the death warrant for Charles I and died in prison after the Restoration.

Order and Disorder
renders the Book of Genesis into English verse, complete with Puritan judgments and reflections on the fate of sinners. The Bible, and Lucy Hutchinson, make it clear that they have it coming. Someday, somehow (and she can be very detailed about how) God's wrath and fury will destroy those who ignore his Word.

Hutchinson's vision of the Bible is not as imaginative as John Milton's Paradise Lost nor would it aspire to "justify the ways of God to man." However, her way with words is amusing (she likes the word "melting" and seems obsessed with cloud imagery) and her tone shines through in all its neurotic prissiness.

One doesn't get the idea that Hutchinson would have been a fun companion (although she seems more open in her memoirs), but her attitude makes Order and Disorder a fun read if you want to bone up on the Bible or just get a window into what it was like to be female and Puritan in the seventeenth century.

48. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan

Also read for class, I did not think John Bunyan's neuroticism was particularly fun. Hailed as a dramatic tug-of-war between God and the devil, this read like the navel-gazing of a religious lunatic.

Bunyan thinks that the devil is personally out to get his soul and to protect himself he must at times hold his own jaw to keep from swearing and relinquish his love of church bells. When he has an inadvertent thought rejecting the Savior, he fears that he has been excluded from redemption, and uses several passages from Scripture to incriminate and then eventually exonerate himself (different passages accomplished each task).

The seventeenth century Bunyan, writing from jail where he was imprisoned for his radical religious beliefs, is another one to read if you want to bone up on the Bible or if you fear that the devil is pulling at your clothes and would like a list of practices on how to encourage him to desist. Otherwise, stay clear.

1 comment:

Marie said...

I'm especially interested in your review of the Valente and will try to remember to stop by to see it. I want to read her but haven't gotten around to it yet.