The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season — Grand Finale and BLACKOUT!


Snow Globes: Reads

Bells: Activities

I intend to also read a book for the Kwanzaa square and try to get as many of my as-yet missing activities done (Holiday Down Under, Movie Ticket, and Holiday Party), but since completing either activities or reads qualifies for completing a square, as far as the game itself is concerned here’s hooray for blacking out my card!

Thanks to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for hosting yet another great game – I had great fun with this one, never mind the hosting site’s performance issues. (I only wish those woes were over once and for all.) As with the bingo, I enjoyed following everybody else’ updates and comparing notes at least as much as completing my own card.

So, here’s for the grand finale:

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

– Read a book set in one of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and/or Denmark), where winter nights are long!

Inspired by Lillelara’s advice to Olga Godim, I changed plans on this one and revisited Babette’s Feast, Tania (Karen) Blixen‘s love letter to the culinary arts, set against the bleak background of (mostly) midwinter in a Pietist religious community in a remote Norwegian fjord. It’s an apt read not only for this square but also for the season, as the feast is Babette’s selfless gift to the two women who, suspicion against “papists” notwithstanding, have taken her into their home after she had lost her own. I’d read it for the first time after having seen the movie, with the sumptuous visuals of the feast (as contrasted by the dour setting of the protagonists’ lives) still freshly in my mind, and I loved it even better then; but I’m still happy I decided to reread it … and few can hold a candle to Blixen’s gift of setting the atmosphere of a story.

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

– Read a book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift.

This task truly came in handy, as my birthday fell smack into the Halloween Bingo and I therefore haven’t made particularly great inroads with the many treasures I’d accumulated back in October.

So, always eager to find out what’s going on in the life of one DI (has-been) John Rebus of Police Scotland, I picked Ian Rankin’s Even Dogs in the Wild, which I absolutely loved … until it dawned on me that the back story of (and solution to) this entry in the series is VERY similar to that of Dead Souls, which happens to be one of my favorite Rebus books and which I therefore know inside and out. (And Rankin has also used the method of disposing of a dead body referenced at the beginning of this book before … not to mention bent cops, who more often than not seem to hail from Glasgow instead of Edinburgh.)

Bit of a bummer, that, and it knocked the book straight down from a five- to a four star read. Still, I loved the fact that part of the book was told from the perspective of “Big Ger” Cafferty, Rebus is as crotchety and unyielding a lonely wolf as ever, and I’m glad to see that Siobhan finally seems to be coming into her own well and truly, without finding it necessary to cling to anybody’s coat tails (particularly not those of her boss, DCI James Page). What with Darryll Christie resurfacing in a prominent role and the Glasgow underworld in play big time as well, I wonder if we’re headed for another gangland showdown along the likes of The Hanging Garden in one of the next books …? Now wouldn’t that be a treat. Also, is Rankin unsure where next to take Malcolm Fox — or why is Fox virtually surplus to requirements at the beginning of the book and wondering whether he should throw in his towel?

 

– Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

My best friend’s birthday is on December 16, as a result of which I only get to go gift shopping for her in a major way once every year, and I typically only decide later, when I’m back home, which items she’s getting for Christmas and which ones for her birthday. This year, I decided it would be the books and a few assorted other items for her birthday … it’ll be a bath tub caddy and a set of goodies from one of our favorite local food (or more specifically spice, condiments and sauces) stores for Christmas. – The books are Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk and a cookbook based on the Harry Potter novels, which I hope she’ll love (and doesn’t own yet), being both an HP fan and a stellar and enthusiastic cook.

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

– Make a small donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.

I made a donation to a charity that my mom and I have been supporting for a long time – in fact, I remember my mom donating to them even when I was a small child: SOS Kinderdörfer (literally, “SOS Children’s Villages”), an organization that takes in and provides housing, schooling and, most importantly, a loving and supportive community, to orphans and children whose parents are too poor or otherwise unable to properly care for them, in different parts of the world. If you make your donation online you can specify the project you want your money to go to, and I picked their project in South Sudan, which has been particularly beleagured of late: as a result of the war, they were forced to abandon their facilities, casting the future of the project, and the children and their carers themselves, into great peril. They’ve only recently begun to slowly build towards a new home for their village and community.

(I’ve included links to their website, which however doesn’t seem to have an English version, unfortunately, so if you want to learn more you’ll have to copy and paste the contents into Google translator, I’m afraid.)

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket

– Read a book that has been adapted to a holiday movie.

It took me about three seconds to make up my mind about this one, and I never stopped to think twice – this just had to be one of my all-time favorite stories, which also happens to have been adapted into one of my all-time favorite holiday movies, never mind that the final scene actually isn’t even set at Christmas in the book: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, whose screen adaptation starring Ricky Schroder and Alec Guinness has been an annual Christmas ritual on German TV for over 35 years now. So call me a sop – and I admit I’ve never actually tried revisiting this story at length outside the Christmas season (I might well find it a bit too tug-at-your-heartstrings-sentimental then – but as a feel good story about love, redemption, and the meaning (and effect) of unselfish generosity, this one is hard to beat … golden-haired cherub, saintly mother and friends to steal horses with all included.

 

And here’s my tally of completed reads and activities:

Task the First: The Winter Wonderland:

Read: A book that is set in a snowy place.

=> Dylan Thomas – A Child’s Christmas in Wales (audio version, read by the author himself)

Activity: Take a walk outside and post a picture of something pretty you encountered on your way.

=> A Visit to Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

Read: A book set in one of the Nordic countries.

=> Tania (Karen) Blixen: Babette’s Feast (see above)

Activity: Hygge: Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook.

=> Hygge!

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

Read: A book where a celebration is a big part of the action.

=> Rex Stout: And Four to Go

Activity: Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on Booklikes.

 

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

Read: A book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift.

=> Ian Rankin: Even Dogs in the Wild (see above).

Activity: Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

=> Book gift, see above.

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

Read: A book written by an African-American author or set in an African country.

Activity: Make a donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.

=> SOS Kinderdörfer, South Sudan project (see above).

 

 

Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah:

Read: Let the dreidel choose a book for you

=> Arthur Conan Doyle: The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)

Activity: Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes.

=> Latkes (Kartoffelpuffer / Reibekuchen), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

Read: A book set during the Christmas holiday season.

=> Donna Andrews: The Nightingale Before Christmas

Activity: Set up a

=> Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations.

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket:

Reading: A book that has been adapted to a holiday movie:

=> Frances Hodgson Burnett – Little Lord Fauntleroy (see above)

Activity: Go see a new theater release this holiday season (this does not have to be a holiday movie).

 

 

Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year:

Read: (A coming of age novel or) any old favorite comfort read:

=> Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol (audio version performed by Patrick Stewart)

Activity: Post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or youth.
=> Task the Ninth, Part 2

 

 

Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under:

Read: A book set in Australia or by an Australian author.

=> Kerry Greenwood: Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

Activity: Buy some Christmas crackers (or make your own) to add to your festivities and share some pictures.

 

 

Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express:

Read: A book that involves train travel.
=> Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express

Activity: Read a classic holiday book from your childhood, or tell a story about a childhood Christmas you’d like to share.
=> Hans Christian Andersen: The Snow Queen

 

 

Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl:

Reading: A book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods.

=> Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave

Activity: Drink a festive, holiday beverage; take a picture of your drink, and post it to share – make it as festive as possible.
=> Mulled wine (Glühwein), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

 

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The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season — Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express, Part 2: Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen”

The Snow Queen - Hans Christian Andersen,T. Pym   

– Read a classic holiday book from your childhood (to a child if you have one handy).

Alas, I didn’t have a child handy, and Holly was singularly unimpressed, so I just settled down on my couch and read Andersen’s fairy tale of love conquering eternal ice all by myself!

The story also makes for very atmospheric visuals, of course …

Russian / U.S. animated adaptation (1959 / redub 1998):

German TV (2014):

 

 

 

Original post:
http://themisathena.booklikes.com/post/1500376/the-twelve-tasks-of-the-festive-season-task-the-eleventh-the-polar-express-part-2-hans-christian-andersen-the-snow-queen

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The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season — Task the Second: The Silent Nights; and Task the Third: The Holiday Party

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:
– Get your hygge on! Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook. Post a picture if you want!

And:

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:
– Read a book where a celebration is a big part of the action.

Sofa, pillows, favorite blanket, favorite black velvet slippers, favorite childhood dinner and a mug of spicy chocolate tea, volume 3 of the audio collection of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey / Maturin cycle on my living room speakers, with Rex Stout’s And Four to Go (4 short stories, 3 of these involving holiday celebrations) to be finished later … I’d say that should count as two birds (tasks) with one, err, shot, shouldn’t it?

The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season — TA’s Reading List (& Matching Activities)

Thanks to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for hosting yet another great game … this looks like so much fun (again)! — I’m probably going to try pairing activities and reads whenever possible, so I’m going to include all the activities in my list below, too, in addition to my reading choices:

 

Task the First: The Winter Wonderland:

Reading: A book that is set in a snowy place: Dylan Thomas – A Child’s Christmas in Wales (audio version, read by the author himself)

Activity: Take a walk outside and post a picture of something pretty you encountered on your way.

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

Reading: A book set in one of the Nordic countries: Rose Tremain – Music and Silence, Kurt Aust – Das jüngste Gericht (The Last Judgment), or Åke Edwardson – Frozen Tracks

Activity: Hygge: Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook. Post a picture if you want.

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

Reading: A book where a celebration is a big part of the action: Rex Stout – And Four to Go

Activity: Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on Booklikes.

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

Reading: A book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift: Since my recent birthday presents were almost all books, something from my birthday haul — most likely either Ilija Trojanow – Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds), Edwidge Danticat – Claire of the Sea Light, Jim Butcher – The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Val McDermid – Splinter the Silence, Michael Connelly – The Crossing or Ian Rankin – Even Dogs in the Wild … all of these are books I’d been planning to read sometime soon anyway. I may also be using some of these for other tasks, though (see, e.g., “Kwanzaa” and “Hanukkah”).

Activity: Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

Reading: A book written by an African-American author or set in an African country: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun, or possibly Ilija Trojanow – Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds) (see also “gift card”).

Activity: Make a donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.

 

Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah:

Reading: Let the dreidel choose a book for you (note: I’m going to spin the dreidel when I’m actually getting ready to do this task):

נ  Nun (miracle): Christopher Paolini – Eldest (audio version read by Kerry Shale)
ג Gimel (great): Arthur Conan Doyle – The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)
ה He (happened): Ian Rankin – Even Dogs in the Wild (see also “gift card”)
ש Shin (there, i.e. Israel): J.R.R. Tolkien – Letters From Father Christmas

Activity: Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes. Post a picture, or tell us how they turned out.

 

Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

Reading: A book set during the Christmas holiday season: Donna Andrews – The Nightingale Before Christmas

Activity: Set up a Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations. Possibly also a cat.

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket:

Reading: A book that has been adapted to a holiday movie: Frances Hodgson Burnett – Little Lord Fauntleroy (The screen adaptation starring Alec Guinness and Ricky Schroder is one of the Christmas staples on German TV.)

Activity: Go see a new theater release this holiday season (this does not have to be a holiday movie).

 

Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year:

Reading: (A coming of age novel or) any old favorite comfort read: Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol (audio version performed by Patrick Stewart)

Activity: Post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or youth.

 

Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under:

Reading: A book set in Australia or by an Australian author (or a book you would consider a “beach read”): Thomas Keneally – Office of Innocence, Kerry Greenwood – Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates, or Peter Temple – Bad Debts

Activity: Buy some Christmas crackers (or make your own) to add to your festivities and share some pictures.

 

Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express:

Reading: A book that involves train travel: Martha Grimes – The Train Now Departing, or Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express or The Mystery of the Blue Train

Activity: Read a classic holiday book from your childhood, or tell a story about a childhood Christmas you’d like to share.

 

Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl:

Reading: A book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods: Mary Stewart – The Crystal Cave

Activity: Drink a festive, holiday beverage; take a picture of your drink, and post it to share – make it as festive as possible.

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season books

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1491594/the-twelve-tasks-of-the-festive-season-ta-s-reading-list-matching-activities

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[REBLOG] The Reveal: The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season – Moonlight Blizzard

 

Task the First: The Winter Wonderland:

– Read a book that is set in a snowy place.

– If you are lucky enough to live in a snowy place, or even if you aren’t, take a walk outside and post a picture of something pretty you encountered on your way.!

 

 Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

 

– Read a book set in one of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and/or Denmark), where winter nights are long!

– Get your hygge on! Hygge is a Danish concept that relates to being content and cozy. Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook. Post a picture if you want!

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

 

– Read a book where a celebration is a big part of the action. Examples would include holiday parties, country house hunting/weekend parties, weddings, etc.

– Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on booklikes.

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

– Read a book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift.

– Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

– Read a book written by an African-American author or set in an African country.

– Make a small donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.

 

Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah:

– Let the dreidel choose a book for you: create a list of four books, and assign a dreidel symbol to each one (Nun = miracle; Gimel = great; He = happened; Shin = there, i.e. Israel). Google “spin the dreidel,” and a dreidel comes up for you to spin. Give it a spin and read the book that the dreidel chooses!

– Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes. Post a picture, or tell us how they turned out!

 

Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

 

– Read a book set during the Christmas holiday season.

– Grab your camera (or your phone) and set up a Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations. Possibly also a cat. Post it for everyone to enjoy!

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket

 

– Read a book that has been adapted to a holiday movie.

– Go see a new theater release this holiday season (during November/December. This does not have to be a holiday movie, so yes, Fantastic Beasts will qualify).

 

Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year

– Every year you get a little bit older! Read a coming of age novel or any old favorite comfort read to start the new year right.

– If you’re feeling brave, post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or misspent youth.

 

Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under

– Read a book set in Australia or by an Australian author,  or read a book you would consider a “beach read”.

– Christmas crackers are a traditional part of an Australian Christmas. Buy some (or make your own) to add to your festivities and share some pictures!

 

Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express

– Read a book that involves train travel (such as Murder on the Orient Express).

– Read a classic holiday book from your childhood (to a child if you have one handy) or tell us a story about a childhood Christmas you’d like to share.

 

Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl

– Read a book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods (for those of us doing the Merlin read-along, the Crystal Cave works for this task).

– Drink a festive, holiday beverage, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Take a picture of your drink, and post it to share – make it as festive as possible!

 

We hope you will join us in the fun!

 

Via The Reveal: The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season – Moonlight Blizzard

SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOW

Wintry Skies, Loneliness, and a Little Boy’s Mysterious Death

How many words for “snow” do you know? In most languages, there is only one … or maybe a few, but not many different ones. But the Inuit language knows countless words for snow – different expressions based on its consistency, its aggregate state, on whether it’s old or freshly fallen, and much, much more. And snow is Smilla Jaspersen’s specialty; it’s what she studies and what she knows better than anybody and anything. So when her only friend, an Inuit boy living in the same Copenhagen apartment complex as her is found dead on the pavement in front of their house, she knows something must be amiss; he can’t have fallen off the roof, as the police quickly conclude: afraid of heights, he would not have climbed to the roof if not driven there in the first place, and he certainly wouldn’t have run to the edge … as his footsteps in the otherwise untouched snow cover on the roof, however, indicate.

Smilla, half Inuit herself and brought to Copenhagen against her will after her Inuit mother’s death, is a loner, a rebel against society, hiding her fears and loneliness under a thick coat of armor of unapproachability and trying to be “rough all over.” Unable and unwilling to ever lift that coat of armor, she takes refuge in science – her definition of longing are mathematics’s negative numbers, the “formalization of the feeling that you’re missing something.” – Yet, this movie’s Smilla is not the Smilla Jaspersen of Peter Høeg‘s novel which the movie seeks to adapt … although Julia Ormond’s performance is not exactly coated with sugar, she is a far cry from the book’s 37-year old woman who hates her Danish father for tearing her from her Greenlandic roots and open skies, and who hates the confines of the society in which he has made her grow up.

And as the story’s protagonist changes in the movie adaption, so does the story line itself – unfortunately, not for the better. Even accepting that it would have been impossible to translate all the novel’s subplots and subtleties onto the screen, what begins like a complex, introspective story about loneliness, the loss of home, and the unchecked power and ambition of a group of prestigious scientists, turns into your average thriller in the end – a huge let-down in an otherwise compelling movie.

Nevertheless, Ormond’s performance as Bille August’s Smilla (even if not Peter Høeg‘s) is strong; and so, in all its quietness, is Gabriel Byrne’s performance as Smilla’s neighbor, the would-be mechanic. Atmospherically, the movie wonderfully projects Smilla’s loneliness in the sad, gray skies and wet snow of wintry Copenhagen, as opposed to the crisp blue skies, white ice fields and limitless horizons of Greenland. For these reasons alone, the movie is well worth watching; even if those of us who have read the novel will have to leave aside a good portion of its contents to be able to appreciate the movie on its own merits.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Constantin Film / 20th Century Fox (1997)
  • Director: Bille August
  • Producers: Bernd Eichinger & Martin Moszkowicz
  • Screenplay: Ann Biderman
  • Based on a novel by: Peter Høeg
  • Music: Harry Gregson-Williams & Hans Zimmer
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Jörgen Persson
Cast
  • Julia Ormond: Smilla Jasperson
  • Gabriel Byrne: The Mechanic
  • Jim Broadbent: Dr. Lagermann
  • Tom Wilkinson: Prof. Loyen
  • Richard Harris: Dr. Andreas Tork
  • Robert Loggia: Moritz Jasperson
  • Vanessa Redgrave: Elsa Lübing
  • Bob Peck: Ravn
  • Mario Adorf: Capt. Sigmund Lukas
  • Jürgen Vogel: Nils Jakkelsen
  • Peter Capaldi: Birgo Lander
  • Emma Croft: Benja
  • Agga Olsen: Juliane Christiansen
  • Clipper Miano: Isaiah Christiansen

 

Links

 

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William Shakespeare: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Folger Library Edition)

Hamlet - William ShakespeareTo thine own self be true …

William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet is arguably the most famous play ever written in the English language; it presents the world with questions and characters that have been the subject of thespian and scholarly debate ever since the Prince of Denmark’s first appearance on the stage of London’s Globe Theatre. Probably written and first performed in 1601 (estimates vary between 1600 and 1602), the play draws on Saxo Grammaticus’s late 12th/early 13th century chronicle Gesta Danorum, which includes a popular legend with a similar plot centering around a prince named Amleth; as well as several more contemporaneous sources, primarily Francois de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, Extraicts des Oeuvres Italiennes de Bandel (1559-1580), which expands on the story told in the Gesta Danorum, and a lost play known as the Ur-Hamlet (i.e., original Hamlet), sometimes also attributed to Shakespeare, but equally likely written by a different author a few decades earlier. Another work frequently cited in this context is 16th century playwright Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedie.

Pursuant to Shakespeare‘s wishes and like all of his works, Hamlet was not immediately published, and the original manuscript did not survive. However, in the absence of copyright laws or other forms of protection of what today would be called the playwright’s intellectual property rights, first bootleg copies (so-called quartos) based on transcripts made during or after performances began to appear in 1603. Yet, it would not be until 1623 – seven years after Shakespeare‘s 1616 death – that his former fellow actors John Hemmings and Henry Condell published 36 of his plays (including this one) in a collection known as the First Folio.

As no print version of any of Shakespeare‘s plays has a bona fide claim to its author’s first-hand blessings, ever since the Bard‘s death the world is left with numerous questions about his characters’ motivations and psychological makeup; first and foremost, in this particular case: who is this Prince of Denmark anyway, and what’s driving him – is he a reluctant suicide or reluctant avenger? A Renaissance man? Wrecked by Freudian guilt? Genuinely mad, or merely putting on a clever act of deception? Or is he someone else entirely? – Indeed, we’re even left in doubt as to what exactly it was that Shakespeare meant his characters to say, with all attendant interpretative consequences: Does the Prince wish for his “too too sullied” or his “too too solid” flesh to “melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew” in his first major soliloquy (Act I, Scene 2)? Does he really contemplate “the stamp of [that] one defect” which may fatally taint the perception of a man’s other virtues, “be they as pure as grace,” before meeting his father’s ghost (I, 4)? Does Polonius, when sending Reynaldo on a spying mission after Laertes, refer to his scheme as “a fetch of wit” or “a fetch of warrant” (II, 1)? Do Hamlet’s musings in “To be, or not to be” (III, 1) concern “enterprises of great pith and moment” or “of great pitch and moment,” whose “currents turn awry and lose the name of action” by his doubts? Does or doesn’t the sight of the Norwegian army while Hamlet is on his way to England (IV, 4) prompt him, who has so far failed to carry out his purpose, to reflect “How all occasions do inform against me,” and conclude his soliloquy with the vow “from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth”?

How you answer any of these questions, and how you consequently view the play’s characters, depends in no small part on the text you read. Like all Folger Shakespeare editions, this one is based on what the editors have deemed the “best early printed version,” while allowing the reader a unique direct comparison of the principal reliable versions by including a text essentially combining these versions, with unobtrusive markers characterizing those passages appearing only in one particular version. For Hamlet, the editors eschewed the play’s very first (1603) quarto, which was possibly compiled by a journeyman actor and whose inconsistencies with all subsequent versions (textually as well as plot-wise and even regarding character names) have caused it to be generally considered a “bad” quarto, in favor of the 1604 Second Quarto, which some even believe to be based on Shakespeare‘s own first draft of the play and which, in any event, while more extensive than the 1623 First Folio (in turn, thought to be closest to the version(s) actually produced on the Globe Theatre stage), boasts about as secure a claim of authenticity as the latter. In some instances, the text follows the Second Quarto (Q2) without visually alerting the reader to the differences vis-a-vis the First Folio (F1), thus compelling those more used to the latter version to seek out the extensive end notes to reassure themselves that (in the examples given above) it might indeed be “solid flesh,” “warrant,” and “pith and moment” (F1) instead of “sullied flesh,” “wit,” and “pitch and moment” (Q2). In other instances, however, the First Folio’s language (clearly marked as such) is given preference over that of the Second Quarto; while crucially, the text also includes all those passages *only* contained in the latter, including the “stamp of one defect” and “bloody thoughts” monologues, whose interpretation has such a direct bearing on many a reader’s understanding of Hamlet’s character.

The text is amplified by illustrations and annotations for those unfamiliar with 16th century English, scene-by-scene plot summaries, a short biography of Shakespeare, and introductory and concluding essays on this and the Bard‘s other plays and on Shakespearean theatre, as well as extensive suggestions for further reading, and a key to the play’s most famous lines. While it is unlikely that after 400 years of debate any one version, be it in print, on stage or on screen, will be able to generate unanimous acceptance as the “definitive” rendition of this complex play, this is an excellent starting point for an in-depth excursion into the Prince of Denmark’s world.

Hamlet and Horatio in the cemetery - Delacroix EugeneEugène Delacroix: Hamlet and Horatio in the Cemetery
(1839, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France)

 

Favorite Quotes:

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

“What is a man, if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more. Sure he that made us with such large discourse, looking before and after, gave us not that capability and god-like reason to fust in us unused.”

“Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade.”

“Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.”

“Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.”

“Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?”

 

 :
One-page edition of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (photo mine)

Merken

John Steinbeck: Novels 1942 – 1952 (Library of America)

Novels 1942-52: The Moon is Down/Cannery Row/The Pearl/East of Eden (Library of America #132) - John Steinbeck, Robert DeMottA Nobel Laureate’s Eden and Our Many Faults and Failures.

Whenever “the great American novel” comes up in conversation, the names most frequently bandied about are Fitzgerald (“The Great Gatsby”), Faulkner (“The Sound and the Fury”), Hemingway (“The Old Man and the Sea”) – and John Steinbeck, chronicler of rural California and the ordinary man’s plight, like Faulkner and Hemingway winner of both the Literature Nobel Prize (1962) and the Pulitzer (1940, for “The Grapes of Wrath”), in addition to multiple other distinctions.

Little in Steinbeck’s upbringing hinted at his future rise to fame. Born 1902, a modest Salinas, California, flour-mill-manager-turned-county-treasurer’s son, he worked as a farm-hand during high school and studied English and biology at Stanford, but left 1925 without graduating to pursue journalism and writing in New York; only to have to return home a year later. Surviving on a number of odd jobs, he continued to write. His first novel, 1929’s “A Cup of Gold,” however, failed to return his publisher’s $250 advance, and his subsequent collection of interrelated stories (“The Pastures of Heaven,” 1932) and novel (“To a God Unknown,” 1933) likewise remained largely unknown. Steinbeck’s fate changed with 1935’s humorous “Tortilla Flat,” chronicling life in a Chicano community (and an allegory on Steinbeck’s own first literary influence, the Arthurian legend, to which he returned much later in an unfinished attempt to modernize Mallory’s “Morte D’Arthur”). Both “Tortilla Flat” and the subsequent “In Dubious Battle” (1936) – Steinbeck’s first exploration of the California’s migratory workers’ fate – won the California Commonwealth Club’s Gold Medal; and the sale of “Tortilla Flat”‘s movie rights earned him his first truly big check. Steinbeck’s reputation grew further with the interrelated coming-of-age stories of “The Red Pony” (1937), and his next two novels, 1937’s poignant “Of Mice and Men” and, particularly, “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939), the story of angry “harvest gypsy” Tom Joad and his family. Both works are still among America’s 35 books most frequently banned from school curricula: keen testimony to the nerves they continue to touch.

Steinbeck’s major works are collected in four volumes of the Library of America series, the first covering his 1932 – 1937 writings, the second “The Grapes of Wrath,” Steinbeck’s extensive background research (“Harvest Gypsies,” 1936), the short story collection “The Long Valley” (1938) and his contribution to “The Sea of Cortez,” a 1941 publication about his 1940 marine exploration with close friend Ed Ricketts; and the final volume his last novels, written between 1947 and 1961, as well as the 1950 play-novelette “Burning Bright” and the travel narrative “Travels with Charley in Search of America” (1962). The present – third – volume contains his three major works from the 1940s, in addition to the awe-inspiring “East of Eden” (1952).

“The Moon Is Down” (1942) reflects Steinbeck’s impressions upon hearing the testimony of refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe. Originally conceived as a play set in the U.S. but revised as a novel set in an unnamed Scandinavian country, it describes the struggle of a group of underground fighters in an occupied society. Widely read in occupied Europe, in 1946 it won Norway’s King Haakon Liberty Cross.

“Cannery Row” (written 1944, published a year later) was a response to a group of soldiers’ request to Steinbeck to write “something funny that isn’t about war.” It is set in Monterey, California and revolves around Doc Burton, a literary incarnation of the author’s friend Ed Ricketts, first introduced as a supporting character in “In Dubious Battle” and now taking center stage as a man whose mind has “no horizon,” and his sympathy “no warp” and thus, becoming the center of a community of truly memorable, endearing characters. (The novel’s dedication reads: “For Ed Ricketts who knows why or should.”) – Steinbeck returned to Doc and his Monterey community in 1954’s “Sweet Thursday.”

“The Pearl,” the folklore-based story of a boy whose life is altered (not for the better) by the discovery of a precious pearl, began as a screenplay for a film directed by Mexican Emilio Fernandez. The novel’s publication was postponed to coincide with the movie’s early 1948 release; by this time the story had, however, already appeared in a magazine.

“East of Eden,” by far the longest work contained herein, was, according to Steinbeck himself, the major novel of his life: “I think there is only one book to a man,” he noted in a letter to his publisher. Of epic scope and breathtaking craftsmanship and complex characters, it is part chronicle of California’s early settlement history, part family saga and part tale of two unequal brothers’ rivalry, modeled on the bible’s Cain and Abel. Intending the book primarily for his sons, Steinbeck commented that it was like a box containing “[n]early everything I have … [p]ain and excitement … evil thoughts and good thoughts – the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.” The writing process was accompanied by a series of letters to Steinbeck’s publisher, published 1969 as “Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters.”

In his remaining 16 years, Steinbeck published only three more works of fiction – besides “Sweet Thursday,” the satirical “Short Reign of Pippin IV” (1957) and 1961’s swan-song on materialism, “The Winter of Our Discontent.” (The uncompleted “Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights” was published posthumously.) His most popular later work is the journal of his trans-American road trip with his poodle Charley (“Travels With Charley,” 1962). But he remained a critical voice, released several collections of journalism and when he died, left a legacy also including a treasury of letters and two highly-acclaimed screenplays, for an adaptation of his own “Red Pony” and for 1952’s “Viva Zapata!” (starring Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn), in addition to screen versions of his novels involving Hollywood luminaries from John Ford and Elia Kazan to Henry Fonda, James Dean, Spencer Tracy, Robert Mitchum and, more recently, Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.

 

Favorite Quotes:
East of Eden

“After a while you’ll think no thought the others do not think. You’ll know no word the others can’t say. And you’ll do things because the others do them. You’ll feel the danger in any difference whatever – a danger to the crowd of like-thinking, like-acting men … Once in a while there is a man who won’t do what is demanded of him, and do you know what happens? The whole machine devotes itself coldly to the destruction of his difference. They’ll beat your spirit and your nerves, your body and your mind, with iron rods until the dangerous difference goes out of you. And if you can’t finally give in, they’ll vomit you up and leave you stinking outside – neither part of themselves, nor yet free …They only do it to protect themselves. A thing so triumphantly illogical, so beautifully senseless as an army can’t allow a question to weaken it.”

Cannery Row

“It has always seemed strange to me …The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (1962)

“The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.”

Merken

Astrid Lindgren: Pippi Longstocking / Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

Well, one day I may well get around to writing proper reviews of Lindgren’s and Tolstoy’s books after all, too. But until then, quite unapologetically, my Goodreads Celebrity Death Match Review Elimination Tournament entry will have to do …

Girl Power, or:
Celebrity Death Match Review Elimination Tournament Review: Anna Karenina (12) vs. Pippi Långstrump (21)

  

A countryside railway station in indistinctly northern surroundings. Count Vronsky and Anna Karenina are standing together, both looking into the distance but in opposite directions.

VRONSKY (contemplative): Now, look at that … a girl carrying a horse …

ANNA (turning): What’s that you said – a girl?

VRONSKY: … carrying a horse.

ANNA (talking over him): Of course, I should have known – you’re looking at another woman. Again. So what’s so special about this one, huh? (She takes a closer look at the figure in the distance and curls her lips in contempt.)

Her freckles? Those ridiculous reddish braids of hers? Or – or – her shoes? Oh my God, they must be at least two sizes too large!

VRONSKY (to himself): Here we go again. – (Soberly, to Karenina): Anna, please …

ANNA (still not listening): I bet you can’t wait to take those shoes off her and clothe her feet in some sort of delicate slippers. Silk, or damast, or something. Or velvet. Or nothing – and then just kiss them. And go on kissing her all the way up her legs, and then … and then … (She breathes heavily, unable to continue.)

VRONSKY: Anna, for God’s sake, she’s just a girl! She can’t be more than, what, nine or ten … or, well, at least she doesn’t look … (He casts a doubtful glance at the horse, which is now standing on solid ground again.)

ANNA: Ah, but you don’t know, do you? And I am sure you would love to find out …

VRONSKY (exasperated): Anna, please! Do you seriously think I’d be interested in a woman who can carry a horse?!

ANNA (pouting): Oh, so she’s a woman now to you already, is she? A few seconds ago she was still merely a girl … I should have known I would never be able to trust you! You’ll always find a way to betray me! I should never have followed you! Why, oh why did I ever abandon my beloved son for your sake? Oh, Seryozha … (She bursts into tears.)

VRONSKY (after contemplating her for a long moment): Look, Anna, I don’t think this is going anywhere. I …

ANNA (howling): You’re leaving me! (After a pause, with a baleful look at the figure in the distance): For HER!

VRONSKY (through his teeth, struggling for composure): I am going to my club.

(He turns on his heels and leaves.)

ANNA (sobbing uncontrollably): I’ve lost him. And after I gave up everything for his sake. I am nothing without him! Oh, what shall I do??

 A humming from the tracks, first gentle but with a steadily increasing volume, announces the arrival of a train. With a desperate sob, Anna Karenina throws herself onto the tracks. The sudden, harsh squeal of the train’s breaks alerts Pippi Longstocking, who up to now had been blissfully unaware of the scene at the station. She comes rushing over, placing herself in front of the train, and tries to stop it with her bare hands. All she manages, alas, is to slow it down; but not before it has severed Anna’s head, which rolls sideways and comes to a stop at Pippi’s feet. Pippi contemplates it with a half-sad, half puzzled expression.

PIPPI (bemused): It’s a pity she never knew my Pappa. He would’ve told her just to sing to herself. Whatever it is, there’s nothing so bad that it can’t be made right again by singing a song, he always said …

(Alerted by a monkey’s chatter, she looks to the roof of the station house.)

PIPPI: Mr. Nilsson! What are you doing up there? Come down at once!

Laughing, Pippi climbs onto the roof herself to retrieve her monkey, leaving Anna’s severed head and body behind on the tracks.

 

Favorite Quotes:

Pippi Longstocking

“But Nightshirts aren’t dangerous,” Pippi assured her. “They don’t bite anybody except in self defense.”

“You understand Teacher, don’t you, that when you have a mother who’s an angel and a father who is a cannibal king, and when you have sailed on the ocean all your whole life, then you don’t know just how to behave in school with all the apples and ibexes.”

“As the children were sitting there eating pears, a girl came walking along the road from town. When she saw the children she stopped and asked, “Have you seen my papa go by?”
“M-m-m,” said Pippi. “How did he look? Did he have blue eyes?”
“Yes,” said the girl.
“Medium large, not too tall and not too short?”
“Yes,” said the girl.
“Black hat and black shoes?”
“Yes, exactly,” said the girl eagerly.
“No, that one we haven’t seen,” said Pippi decidedly.”

“The girl hurried away, but then Pippi shouted, “Did he have big ears that reached way down to his shoulders?”
“No,” said the girl and turned and came running back in amazement. “You don’t mean to say that you have seen a man walk by with such big ears?”
“I have never seen anyone who walks with his ears,” said Pippi. “All the people I know walk with their feet.”

Peter Høeg: Tales of the Night

Tales of the Night - Peter Høeg, Barbara HavelandBridges built out of yearning

“The great systems that inform the world about the truth and life invariably claim to be absolutely truthful and well-balanced. In reality they are quaking bridges built out of yearning.” Thus, the protagonist of this short story collection’s last entry, Reflection of a Young Man in Balance, sums up what he has come to learn about love, and life in general. However, these could also be the words of almost any character in any of the other tales told here: Admittedly or unadmittedly, they are searching for something, for a defining point or experience in life, and all of them see their lives profoundly unbalanced by that experience.

Taking “love and its conditions on the night of March 19, 1929” as his point of reference and as a link between the otherwise unconnected eight stories, Peter Høeg takes his readers from Denmark around the world to Paris, Lisbon and Central Africa. In a language and in settings somewhere between Dinesen (the obvious comparison), Conrad, Hemingway, Wilde and Poe, the author of Smilla’s Sense of Snow (or Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, as it is called in Britain) takes a look at the human condition, society in the first decades of the 20th century, and the dichotomy of science and sentiment, experience and emotion, logic and love.

In Journey into a Dark Heart, a historic train ride in Central Africa turns into a life-changing adventure for a young, disheartened mathematician, with travel companions such as German war hero General von Lettow-Vorbeck, traveling writer Joseph Korzeniowski (a/k/a Joseph Conrad, whose Heart of Darkness provides the obvious inspiration for more than just the story’s title) and an African servant girl with her own surprise in store for the three men.

Hommage a Bournonville finds a young Danish ballet dancer on a tiny boat in Lisbon’s harbor, telling the story of his lost love to a dervish of Turkish origin cast together with him by fate.

In The Verdict on the Right Honorable Ignatio Landstad Rasker, Lord Chief Justice, a father chooses the occasion of his son’s marriage to pass on the story how his own father, a renowned jurist and civil servant, faced up to the demons he had suppressed for most of his life, and which his family thereafter promptly continued to suppress.

An Experiment on the Constancy of Love juxtaposes a young woman of means and great beauty, an aspiring scientist with a sheer endless disdain for life, and the man who becomes her suitor from their first childhood meeting on and follows her from Paris to Denmark and back to Paris, until their ambitions and sentiments collide head-on in a fatal experiment she has devised.

Portrait of the Avant-Garde takes a successful, ambitious painter with ties to the rising Nazis to a nightly boat trip into self-discovery off a remote Danish island.

Pity for the Children of Vaden Town is the story of a city’s self-elected utter isolation, and of the pied piper who has come to the town children’s rescue – with abounding reminiscences to the Grimm Brothers, Robert Browning, Hans Christian Andersen and Lewis Carroll.

In Story of a Marriage, a writer discovers that the public image of perfection is often nothing more than that: an image.

And last but not least, in Reflection of a Young Man in Balance, a young scientist discovers the destructively revealing power of a perfect mirror.

Tales of the Night was written and appeared in Denmark in 1990, as Høeg’s second book (after 1988’s The History of Danish Dreams and two years before Smilla’s Sense of Snow), but was published in the U.S. only after the success of his story about the Inuit exile from Copenhagen hell-bent on solving the mystery of the death of a little boy, her only friend. In tone and theme, the two books could not be any more different; yet, like Smilla, Høeg’s protagonists in these tales are loners; outsiders of society, and ultimately, most of them are comfortable in that role and seek solitude rather than social acclaim and popularity. “I learned that it may be necessary to stand on the outside of one is to see things clearly,” the narrator of Hommage a Bournonville tells his Muslim companion, and he could be speaking for many of them. So, while social norms and conventions are an important backdrop for the experiences made by Høeg’s characters, ultimately it is one person in particular, often a loner like themselves, who provides them with the experience that will change the course of the entire rest of their lives.

Peter Høeg tells his protagonists’ stories with as much intelligence as humility, an occasional sense of humor; and most of all, with great empathy, undying even in their most somber moments. Not all of these tales are immediately uplifting (and Høeg’s successor novels continue to explore the dark side of the human existence); but they provide ample food for thought and are not to be missed.

 

Favorite Quotes:

“It may be necessary to stand on the outside of one is to see things clearly.”

“The great systems that inform the world about the truth and life invariably claim to be absolutely truthful and well-balanced. In reality they are quaking bridges built out of yearning.”

Merken