Well, let’s call this month the one about Shakespeare. I had been slowly falling off the pace, and if I was going to finish the plays this year, I had to get on it. the result is that I read seven different plays by Bill this month as well as three other books. My long book for the month is Anna Karenina, which, under normal circumstances, I’d have finished ages ago, but I’m teaching it, so I have to move at the same pace as my students, and they still have a little more than 100 pages to go in it. Anyway, here we are.
1. All’s Well that Ends Well by William Shakespeare (1/5) – This rivals Titus for the worst Shakespeare I’ve read. I will never return to it, and I suggest you stay away.
2. King Lear by William Shakespeare (5/5) – This, on the other hand, was another masterpiece from Shakespeare. It was the only one of the great tragedies I hadn’t read. Unsurprisingly, it is great. There’s a particular humanity to this one that feels almost unique in Shakespeare. Lear’s descent into madness and eventual remorse feel real in a way that resonates still. There’s nothing about it that is confined to a particular time. One of my favorites. I may actually prefer it to Hamlet.
3. Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare (2/5) – And now another dud. This was either not entirely written by Shakespeare or never finished. It is quite a bore. There are some nice moments toward the end, but it’s another one to skip.
4. McSweeney’s #47 (4.5/5) – After what I felt was an off issue in #46, I was very pleased with the content here. Nicely diverse. The newly discovered Shirley Jackson stories were definitely highlights. Only one featured author was a bit of a dud. Otherwise, gold all the way through. Also, another awesome design. This issues came slipped case with ten pamphlets for nine different authors (plus letters for the tenth). The pamphlets can be lined up to create one long cover illustration that is a mirror image of itself. So neat.
5. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (5/5) – When I read this in high school, I hated it. I was very, very, very wrong. Completely brilliant. I love how tight it is. Everything in this is completely essential. It is, by some measures, his shortest play, but it deserves it’s reputation as one of his best.
6. Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (4.5/5) – This play wasn’t perfect in the way of Lear or Macbeth, but it was wonderfully intriguing. I hadn’t read it before, and I love how dynamic the character of Marc Antony is when this is combined with Caesar. The two together make for a fascinating set. I never quite by Shakespearean battle scenes, though, and this has a few to many of them.
7. Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare (3/5) – Another one that isn’t fully written by Shakespeare. Meh. Very meh. One thing I’ve learned about Shakespeare is that, if it’s rumored that he didn’t write all of it, it’s not worth so much of your time.
8. THT Annual 2015 (N/A) – I’m not going to rate this here because I have an article in it and I was one of the primary editors, but it is a good book if you’re into super-nerdy baseball stuff. There’s lots of excellent analysis you won’t find anywhere else. You should buy it.
9. The Street by Ann Petry (5/5) – The last book on Cate’s list for me this year, and it might be the one I like the best. I’ve read a few books this year that have dealt explicitly with race or class and it amazes me how relevant they continue to be. The Street is getting to be an old book, and yet, it doesn’t seem that we’ve really come all that far. It’s something everyone could stand to read.
10. Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (4/5) – The accompanying materials I read with this try to place it in the Othello/Hamlet/Lear/Macbeth echelon. I don’t quite see it. I found it rather dry in spots. Which isn’t to say it’s bad. it’s actually quite good, but I don’t think it sits with Shakespeare’s very best work. Also, I am really running out of stuff to say about William Shakespeare.
Okay, one more book log left for the year. I’ve already hit just about every goal I set for myself (just a few more plays to read), and I’m excited to finish the reading year. See you next month.