It doesn’t get much more influential than the ‘good book’ in English Literature …
[Second in a series of articles aimed at our ‘A Level’ students, addressing gaps in their general and literary knowledge. Read the previous article, On Dante’s Inferno, here]
‘Good morning [big smile]!
In the Christmas season, who do you think is the greatest gift-giver of them all?’
(this happened to me a few weeks back)
No – don’t slam the door !I’m genuinely not here to convert you.But if there’s just one text that has gifted the most sources of inspiration and allusion to our Western literary tradition, it’s probably the Old Testament Book of Genesis.Estimates vary, but its very strong messages on obedience and patriarchy have been influencing society for about 3,000 years.
This would be the book to choose alongside Shakespeare’s Complete Works when looking for the most influential literary works.
Not drowning, necessarily – still waving, to paraphrase Stevie Smith, but wishing I wasn’t quite so far away from the shore, paddling blithely in the warm shallows of Romeo and Juliet, as I should be by the end of January; having splashy fun with the rest of the blog and my new excursions on Twitter. But fifty-plus posts and nine plays in? Not dead.
That said, despite plenty of opportunity, I’ve ‘not got round to‘ reading Act III of Love’s Labour’s Lost. I’m still reading: Iain M Banks, Paolo Bacigalupi, and chunks of George Wilson Knight on Julius Caesar, but, when all’s said and done, no Shakespeare or LLL.
We might say I’ve lost any love of my labour in this play … (sorry about that)
First off was a virtual trolley dash through the sale aisle of Verso Books, ‘the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world‘ on New Year’s Eve. Only one of the baker’s dozen of political tracts I bought had any specific link to Shakespeare But I can’t and won’t dismiss Shakespeare entirely this year, and there’s some added fun in finding the ‘applicability’ – NOT ‘relatability’ – of my wider reading to the plays, and vice versa.
She sounded unimpressed. Hurt, even. I backtracked swiftly.
I live alone, and lead quite a solitary existence, truth be told.
But, and I suspect it’s a sign of madness, like JF Sebastian in Bladerunner, I have a number of inanimate buddies who I’ve named. I even say hello to them when I get in, sometimes, in a post-post-post-modern, ironically jovial way. Take my fridge, for example …
I wonder if there was a time when, at least as an adult, the name Germaine Greer was unknown to me. Yet this slim volume, picked up in the last mad pre-demolition trolley dash round our old sixth-form building almost a year ago, is my first reading of any of her works. I feel a bit embarrassed about that.
Lesson 1: Books, no matter how interesting, are not a girlfriend substitute …
PTS read through: Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act I
It feels appropriate to arrive at this play in the month when it seems you’re not a functioning member of society if you don’t add some kind of punishing denial to the post-Christmas blues: Dry January, the unappetising-sounding Veganuary, or in my case, the Walk 1,000 Miles in 2018 challenge (already behind schedule). Personally, I think we’ve enough to cope with, waiting for things to warm up and the nights to become appreciably longer.
Nevertheless, this is how the play opens – with a preposterous resolution by the foolish King of Navarre and three of his intimates to ‘abjure the rough magic’ of the fair sex. Unlike Rocky’s trainer Mickey, they’re worried about the intellectual rather than physical effects that women may have on them
I give them a maximum of ten minutes, stage time …
“This is all the UK has to show for itself. The situation is urgent. Please think of others far worse off than you and give generously”
For those who don’t know Mr Woolfe, he was hovering on the edges of glory at UKIP for a few years, challenging for the ‘leadership’ at one stage, until leaving in high dudgeon after a classy physical altercation with a colleague, and now standing as an ‘Independent’. UKIP is, for the uninitiated, the United Kingdom Independence Party – a political party of xenophobic, borderline racist, swivel-eyed loons who have done as much as anyone else to get us into this desperate Brexit mess.
Mr Woolfe is currently one of my MEPs (Member of the European Parliament). I didn’t vote for him. But tonight, to my shame, he represents me.