Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This Week in Reading June 15 - 21

Summer comes in officially at the end of this week. While you might expect mystery, suspense, and light fiction for such weather, they are mostly missing from the authors born this week. (Except for Erich Segal, whose Love Story was a big 1970s beach read, and Rosamond Smith, who is the pseudonym of one of the more serious literary authors born this week.)

What we're left with, however, are some very complex, thoughtful, and highly literary authors of the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie, John Hersey, Laura Z. Hobson, Charles Chesnutt, Vikram Seth, Mary McCathy, Lillian Hellman, and Ian McEwan. Every one of them writes about love, several about music and love, and all about difficult human relations between individuals and groups. There's many a beach read here, but they're not light.

This Week's Question: "If literature isn't everything, it's not worth a single hour of someone's trouble," was said by an author born this week. One of his characters, whose companion was in the process of reading all the books in the library in alphabetic order, also said, "All that I know about my life, it seems, I learned in books." Who was the author, and what, by the way, is that book that has a very specific relationship to the major novel of another author born this week?

Answer to Last Week's Question: Next to the engraving of Shakespeare in the First Folio of his plays in 1623, playwright Ben Jonson appended this poem:

To the Reader
This Figure, that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
Wherein the Graver had a strife
with Nature, to out-doo the life:
O, could he but have drawne his wit
As well in brasse, as he hath hit
His face ; the Print would then surpasse
All, that was ever writ in brasse.
But, since he cannot, Reader, looke
Not on his Picture, but his Booke.

Though Jonson's other poem in the folio praises Shakespeare's skill over rivals, specifically Marlowe, these short lines, especially the last one, give some non-Stratfordians cause to suggest that the picture of the man is not a picture of the author of the plays in the books. We'll never know, of course.

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