Monday, April 02, 2012


Don't get excited by the date stamp. This page is closed, and unofficially has been since the summer of 2006. This is just formalizing what should've been obvious for awhile now. Nothing's going to get deleted (apart from the HaloScan-hosted comments, which have been gone for years anyway), but nothing's going to get added either.

The Dunciad is still chugging along about as well as it ever did, and that's where you can find what passes for the newest updates, which happen about as often as they did after awhile. So have fun with that, and thank you for your support.
|| Eric 6:25 PM#

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

JUST FINISHED: A Year In The Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro. For some reason, this one called out to me from the Barnes & Noble cut-out table, and since Shakespeare looms large on the list (remember the list? I know I sure do...), I felt that it was worth a tumble.

My big issue with Shakespeare biographies is that for concrete info about his life, we're left with a long string of dates, comings and goings, births and deaths...and that's pretty much it. Biographers might as well be writing speculative fiction. Shapiro's approach in today's book makes more sense: to choose a year (in this case he chose 1599, arguably the turning point of Shakespeare's career), look into its events, cut it open and climb inside it, then use that knowledge to dig into that year's plays. As it turns out, there was a lot going on in Elizabethan England that year. The queen appointed the Earl of Essex, a former court favorite whose charm had curdled, to quell an Irish rebellion (lots of easy parallels with the current US situation if you look into the details), culminating in a meeting which Shapiro calls "the end of chivalry in England". Meanwhile, the threat of a new Spanish Armada gave the capital a special kind of war jitters, and the London merchants, responding to the economic threat of the Dutch merchant fleets, established the East India Company, the true starting point of the British Empire and the birth of globalism. Also, a new kind of literature, the personal essay, was beginning to insinuate itself among the inteligencia.

Shapiro did well the job he chose to do; the material relating Shakespeare's world to his work was very involving. The only part that didn't quite pull me in, oddly enough, was the chapter about his relations (or lack thereof) with his family. Here's where the absence of solid biographical details hurts the most; the refrain "we just don't know" rings louder than in any other section.

That aside, A Year In The Life is an involving read for people interested in the plays and the times, and it definitely doesn't hurt that it's geared for the non-academic reader. Like the man says in the introduction, if you've seen Shakespeare In Love, this book will help you meet Shakespeare at work.


|| Eric 7:08 AM#

Sunday, March 18, 2007

JUST FINISHED: Reading Like a Writer: A Guide For People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose. As someone who's trying to work up the nerve to start writing again, the title struck me in a good place, and the book didn't disappoint. Prose builds the book around the sensible idea that with the great writers, every word and every sentence is there for a reason, and if you want to figure out how to they do it, you should start with a close reading of what they put on the page. She then walks us through (sometimes lengthy) excerpts ranging from Tolstoy to Cheever to show us what you can get out of paying attention, both as a reader and a writer. It's a very engaging read, with a style that shows where all those books will get you. She also includes a list of "books to be read immediately", which is more or less a handy bibliograhy of books covered in the main text. Considering one of the selections is Tales of Anton Chekhov Vols. 1-13, to which she dedicates a whole chapter, Prose must have an odd concept of "immediately".

At least one online critic
doesn't see advice to writers in anything but the first and the last chapters. He obviously read a different book than I did, or more likely has the maddening idea that writers are too busy writing to read somebody else. If you're just looking for exercises, Writing Down The Bones is still in stores.


|| Eric 1:45 PM#

Monday, October 23, 2006

JUST FINISHED: A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage by Mark Twain. Back into the swing of things, and sure, why not with a previously lost Mark Twain manuscript? Since it's breathtakingly short, this review will be shorter. The historical background: in 1876, after putting the unfinished Huckleberry Finn in a desk drawer, Sam Clemens tried to stir up interest in a sort of writing contest where he would contribute a bare-bones plot and let the contestants put flesh on it as they chose. To set the story contest into motion, he wrote the first one himself, and that was what found its way into print as a slim volume in 2001.

You can't fault the title for false advertising: there is a murder, a mystery, and a marriage in Twain's story, which doesn't really rank at level of a lost classic, even if it does have a hint or two of the master around the edges. It's all about young romance, a nasty old man who wants to flummox the whole deal for petty reasons, and a mysterious French stranger who is found in a field of snow with no footprints or carriage tracks anywhere near him. As I said, not the most compelling thing Twain ever wrote, but the wraparound material from Roy Blount Jr. (which takes up half the book) makes the purchase worthwhile; using this story as a launching point, he makes a very compelling case that the failure of the post-Civil War policy of Reconstruction was a clear dividing line between the early Twain of Tom Sawyer and the older man who roasted God and man over the same barbecue pit. The signifigance of this disillusionment falling during his hiatus from Huck Finn--he put his pen down before the violent resolution of the Grangeford/Shepherdson feud--isn't lost on Blount, and most likely contributed to richness of what many people have called the first American novel.

All this might not be new to more constant readers, but it's fresh to me. Recommended with the above reservations.
|| Eric 12:25 AM#

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

THE WORLD I THOUGHT I KNEW IS DEAD: There once was a young man named Tanvir. He was a boy who loved the Iron Shiek. But mainly, he had more fun than many on the Internet because he saw the whole online experience as a fraud...more or less. He would say all sorts of sick things to you because he knew damn well you weren't about to drive cross-country just to put a boot up his ass. He even made up a blog that, at first, made merry fun of the concept of bloggery...and was updated about six times a year.

Not only does he now have a proper blog, but it's on MySpace. And it's a BLOGGY blog, with updates on what he had for lunch and...OMIGOD, HE'S EATING IN HIS PROFILE PICTURE! It even has one of those godawful music players to provide a soundtrack to his life. All he needs is one of those emoticons to show his current mood and he's gone, gone, gone.

Another piece of the human spirit has died. I shake my fist at you in mock-comic fashion.
|| Eric 9:19 PM#

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A WHOLE NEW PLACE FOR YOU TO IGNORE: Don't take this as a sign that I'm locking up Tiny Money Land, but for the forseeable future I'm going to be focusing in on a new collaborative blog that we're calling The Dunciad. It's already in progress, so check it out.

I'll probably keep feeding this blog about as often as I have in the past year, so take that for what it is.
|| Eric 2:35 PM#

Sunday, July 23, 2006

ANOTHER LINK SAUSAGE, BABY: Please welcome to the family of trusted strangers Ruthless Rhymes, a blog dedicated to the collection and analysis of the darkly humorous verse of Harry Graham and those he inspired over the years. This one doesn't seem to update very often, but you definitely should read it from end to end if you think sick humor started with South Park. Or even National Lampoon.
|| Eric 6:04 AM#

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