Friday, August 29, 2008

Poetry Friday - 25

This time next week I shall, all being well, be sitting in the Courtyard Theatre at Stratford upon Avon, listening to the immortal words of the Bard and watching a barefoot David Tennant thrill the audience.

Hamlet: Act II, Scene ii

I have of late -- but
wherefore I know not -- lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling
you seem to say so.

I'm still not very excited as yet. I simply can't believe it's going to happen, but hopefully it will!

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Charlotte's Library.

Dalek I Loved You: A Memoir - Nick Griffiths

Another book review! It'll surely snow!! Mind you, this one's Doctor Who related, so maybe it'll only be a light snowfall rather than a full out blizzard?

I decided, before plunging into a re-read of Hamlet in preparation for seeing it live next week, to read Nick Griffiths' Dalek I Loved You: A Memoir.

I found this book laugh out loud funny, in places, which will doubtless please Nick Griffiths, who likes the idea of making people laugh. I found it warm, witty and wry. Sometimes it was even genuinely moving: he talks of interviewing Jon Pertwee for the Radio Times 16-page Doctor Who supplement in honour of the TV Movie only a short while before Pertwee's death at the age of 76 had me choking back tears (the Third Doctor was Griffiths' first Doctor), even though it's described in a very understated (ie typically British) way.

I suspect this book will appeal most to British readers between the ages of 35 and 45 who grew up watching Doctor Who at the same time that Griffiths did, and who will therefore understand the many pop culture references scattered throughout the book. It was definitely a nostalgia trip for me, and one I enjoyed taking.

He talks mostly of the classic series (New Who was part way through its second season as he was finishing writing the book), giving handy little summaries of particular episodes he's talking about (prefaced with the episode's title and "for the unfamiliar").

He lists his Top Ten Doctor Who Episodes Ever (The Deadly Assassin, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Pyramids of Mars, The Robots of Death, The Daemons, Horror of Fang Rock, Terror of the Autons, Genesis of the Daleks, The Android Invasion, The Mind Robber with honourable mentions to The Sea Devils and State of Decay - if you were wondering). Actually, he likes lists quite a lot - listing favourite music, things he loves, things he hates, some things that have embarrassed him, etc. (He hates Adric, loves making people laugh, adores David Bowie).

I recommend the book, with the proviso that it might not appeal if you're not a Brit of a certain age.

Clearly the book's proved popular, because there's a sequel coming out in late October: Who Goes There, which is (according to Amazon's blurb) a travel book with "Doctor Who" at its core. Nick travels England and Wales, seeking locations used in the show, both Classic and New. Being an odd kind of show, its locations too are odd. This is no glamorous trip. Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, anyone? A flooded china clay pit in Cornwall? As he travels, so Nick discovers another side to our well-trodden country, which is no less evocative. Then he goes to the pub. As in "Dalek I Loved You", the travel writing is backed up by Nick's childhood reminiscences and contemporary musings."Who Goes There" isn't just for Who fans - it's for anyone who fancies a trip off the beaten path. And a very funny book.

X-posted to my Live Journal.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Princess Bride - William Goldman

Here's a thing. Oh, it's called a book review, isn't it?

I know! It's OK, I'll just wait and give you all time to recover from the shock of me posting an actual book review (and it's not even a Doctor Who book!)...

Are you recovered now, or do you need a bit more time? (I'm sorry, I should have given you some warning, shouldn't I?)


Book review. So about 500 years after the rest of the world, I finally got around to reading William Goldman's The Princess Bride (What can I say? Bandwagons generally pass me by as they're careering madly downhill while I plod upwards!)

Someone mentioned the book somewhere (I suspect it was a less-Doctor-Who-obsessed Live Journal friend of mine), and I thought "Huh, I've heard a lot about that, never read it. Wonder if they library's got it?" And they did have it - though it's so wildly popular I had to wait two weeks to get hold of it! - and I rather enjoyed it.

I'm sure everyone else is already familiar with the fact that this book is a rather tongue-in-cheek fairytale of love, life, death, action, and life again. Featuring the obligatory handsome Prince (Westley - I kept calling him Wesley, too much Buffy, methinks!) and a incredibly beautiful princess (improbably named Buttercup). It also boasts a Spanish sword wizard ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."); a terrifying Zoo of Death; an immense, chocolate-coated resurrection pill, and a whole lot of villains, who run the gamut from evil, through even more evil, to (blimey!) most evil.

And then there's Fezzik, the gentle giant who's addicted to rhyming but too afraid to tell most people.

William Goldman - who's twice won an Oscar for his screenwriting (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men if you're interested) - has always claimed he merely abridged this text, extracting the "good parts" from an inventive yet wordy and political satire by Florinese literary superstar, S Morgenstern.

Whether or not that's the case, doesn't really matter. This is a fun book. Also gripping, with edge-of-the-seat suspense by the bucketload.

If by any chance I'm NOT the last person in the English-speaking world to read this book, do grab a copy and be prepared for a tale of "true love and high adventure".

Friday, August 22, 2008

Poetry Friday - 24

I recently read Laura Lippman's In A Strange City, a murder mystery novel in which a strange little man attempts to hire PI Tess Monaghan in order to unmask the Visitor (also known as the Poe Toaster), who has been visiting the Baltimore grave of Edgar Allan Poe every year on 19 January for the past fifty years. On each visit s/he leaves three red roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac. Since the Visitor is committing no crime Tess refuses the assignment, but she worries that a less scrupulous PI may take it on, so she goes to the 19 January vigil as an observer. She watches as two cloaked figures approach the grave, appear to embrace and then part, but as they walk off in different directions, there's a gunshot and one of them is killed. Tess quickly learns that the dead man is not the regular Visitor. So who is he? And why was he there? When it turns out that Tess's would-be client had given her a fake name, she knows she must try to find him. And when an old friend from her past surfaces, claiming that the shooting was a homophobic hate crime, things only get more complicated...

This was a fascinating novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also gave me a taste for reading Poe's poetry, so this week I'm sharing this poem:

Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love —
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me —
Yes! — that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we —
Of many far wiser than we —
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Today is the birthday of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, Edgar Allan Poe's first cousin whom he married in 1835 (despite being only 13 years old, and there being a 14 year age gap between them. Virginia contracted tuberculosis when she was 19, and when she died in 1847, Poe was devastated and started drinking heavily. It is possible that she was the inspiration for this poem.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Read. Imagine. Talk!.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Poetry Friday - 23

In three weeks time, I shall be seeing this for myself:

(Photos Alistair Muir)

And my excitement levels are steadily rising. This means I'm in well into Shakespeare Mode right now, so this week I'm bringing you another of the Bard's Sonnets.

Sonnet 23

As an unperfect actor on the stage
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart.
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharged with burden of mine own love's might.
O, let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love and look for recompense
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.

I can hardly wait to see one of my favourite Shakespeare plays live - and with no less than two of my favourite actors (David Tennant and Patrick Stewart) in leading roles.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is over at Big A, little a

Friday, August 08, 2008

Poetry Friday - 22

Given the weather we've been having this week, this poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley seems apt!

The Cloud

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night 'tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skyey bowers,
Lightning, my pilot, sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven's blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardors of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aery nest,
As still as a brooding dove.

That orbed maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun's throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon's with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,--
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-colored bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colors wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

A friend was bemoaning the typical British weather (ie. rain) yesterday and I offered her a snippet of this by way of distraction. I *think* she appreciated it!

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Becky's Book Reviews.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Poetry Friday - 21

Life has quietened back down again for me this week (and the weather's cooling down too, thank goodness) after last week's laptop crash, etc.

This week's poem is by W H Auden.

Musée Des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking
dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at The Well-Read Child.