Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Booklikes-Opoly! - Roll & Book Selection

Scarweather - Anthony Rolls Parker Pyne Investigates - Agatha Christie

It's the wee hours of a new roll day.


You rolled 2 dice:

6 5

Timestamp: 2019-06-18 00:07:03 UTC


... which takes me to:


19. Spending some lazy days at the lake house sounds like a wonderful summer vacation!
Read a book with a cover that is more than 50% blue, or by an author whose first or last name begins with any letter in the word L-A-K-E.


Oh, the choices, the choices...


I think I can narrow it down to either an Agatha book or ... Scarweather by Anthony Rolls, whose writing Dorothy L. Sayers apparently liked. 

Hm, ...

Will's World - Next Up!

Woza Shakespeare!: Titus Andronicus In South Africa - Gregory Doran, Antony Sher

Alright, now that I finished the two reads on the authorship debate, I'm ready to move on to the next book in the Will's World project. 


TA recommended Woza Shakespeare! to me, and as a fellow admirer of Tony Sher's work I've been really looking forward to this one.


I'm currently waiting for my next BL-Opoly roll so have already made a start on this, and I have to say that this looks to be a brilliant mix of memoir, history, acting, actors, Shakespeare and other experiences encountered on Sher's and Doran's tour of South Africa.  

Why Shakespeare WAS Shakespeare

Why Shakespeare WAS Shakespeare (Kindle Singles) - Stanley Wells

I had a curious encounter with one of Rutland’s supporters many years ago. I received a phone call from a visitor from Vancouver telling me that he had a photograph of an Elizabethan portrait of the Earl in which he was holding a copy of Hamlet. Would I like to see it?

Naturally I would, and I invited the elderly gentleman to my office. On arrival he produced a photograph of a genuine portrait of Rutland. But I saw no book.

‘Where’, I asked, ‘is Hamlet?’

‘There’, he said, pointing to a spot in the middle of the photograph. It was empty. A somewhat embarrassed conversation ensued, during which my visitor revealed that he was the reincarnation of the Earl. As he departed he told me that he had written a musical on the topic, as yet unperformed.

I truly love Stanley Wells: He's made Shakespeare's life and works accessible for decades and I have yet to find a more passionate and to-the-point promoter of any work of what we now call a literary classic.


What I had not appreciated so far is how many complete and utter nutters Wells must encounter on a regular basis. No wonder he doesn't hold back in his refutations of whatever bogus and completely unfounded claims enter the public sphere with respect to Wells' field of expertise. 


Why Shakespeare WAS Shakespeare was an article that was published by Wells in 2014, seemingly in response to two other works in particular: the Emmerich film Anonymous and Diana Price's revised edition of Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography (2012). 


In it Wells summarises the very fundamental flaws in the Anti-Stratfordian argument, and he does so in a riveting gallop of snark mixed with solid argument and referencing for further reading. 




More about Wells' myth-busting of the Anti-Stratfordian arguments can be found here:


Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem

Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem - Diana Price

This book poses a bit of a conundrum for me: Is it possible to like a work of non-fiction and enjoy reading it, while at the same time taking issue with - even vehemently disagreeing with - the content of the book?


In Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, Diana Price explores the reasons why Anti-Stratfordians believe that the author most of us know as William Shakespeare was not the one man from Stratford that has been credited with the creation of Shakespeare's works. 


Price goes through the arguments of why Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare one by one and creates a well-rounded overview of the Anti-Stratfordian tenets. She starts with differences of names in records, mentions of Shakespeare in the writing of his contemporaries, financial records, biographical dates, and the works themselves, dissecting the use of language, rhythm etc. for clues of authorship. 


I am certainly no Shakespeare scholar, I have merely a passing interest, but overall I found the arguments really unconvincing, especially the ones based on financial records. 


One one hand, Price argues that there are hardly any records to show that Shakespeare, the Stratford man, received any payment for literary work, which Price uses as evidence that the man in Stratford didn't write the plays (etc.). On the other hand, Price argues that there are few records of any payment for the literary works created by anyone. There seem to be records for payments from various patrons to the actors and theatrical groups, but there seems little differentiation between actors and writers. 


Is this really all that surprising? At a time where printing had developed into an industry based on the sale of tangible goods but publishing had yet to establish itself because professional authorship as such was still in its infancy, why would we expect to see records of payments to authors? If printing produced tangible goods for sale (no advertising as yet) with no consideration given to authors, why would we expect theatrical players who had an even longer history of producing any known story with appeal to the crowds to make the distinction between writers and players? 

Copyright was not introduced to the UK until 1710, so why would there be a need for recording a distinction of works, and for recording payment (as proof of payment)? 


I don't get it.


What I also didn't get was the argument that the Shakepeare the London playwright would not have needed to become a landowner and business man in Stratford becasue surely his literary success would have secured him an income.

Literary success or success as an actor/producer/theatre owner was a risky and more so fleeting business. My question back to the author would really be why wouldn't a man supporting a growing family try to secure an income from a traditional source such as land and tenancies?


I really don't get the basis for most of the arguments in the book, actually, even if I'm only mentioning two here. 


So why did I still enjoy reading this?


I think the answer is because the book did make me look at how we look at biographies, research, and the presentation of arguments. I liked that the author tried to go into quite a lot of detail of looking at records and questioning how we read biographies and how some biography writers forego original research and simply re-work secondary sources, sometimes without fact-checking, which can lead to contradictory statements of fact.


This is something I have come across in biographical work of other authors and other people on several occasions and it is a particular pet peeve of mine. 

However, while I share Price's annoyance with lazy research and I liked her questioning the "facts" presented by several biographers, I had little time for her reasoning and production of evidence for any counter-theories. 


Next up, I'll turn to Stanley Wells' short work on Why Shakespeare was Shakespeare for a - no doubt passionate - defense of the traditional view of Shakespearean biography.  


Previous reading update:

Reading progress update: I've read 77 out of 376 pages.

Booklikes-Opoly! - Roll & Book Selection

Having finished Death on the Cherwell, I'm ready to roll again:

You rolled 2 dice:

2 5

Timestamp: 2019-06-16 20:48:02 UTC


...which takes me to a visiting stint on the Jail Square.

I will probably progress some of my current reads to make up the jail fund contribution. That's actually quite a good motivation to get on with Price's book on the authorship issue.

Date Bank Square Title Pages DNF DNF @ Page # Rating Notes
May 20 $20             (Starting Bank Balance)
May 20 $3 5 Death on the Nile 320     5  
May 22 $0 Jail Ladies' Bane 237     3.5  
May 24 $3 15 Savage Summit 303     4  
May 24 $1 25 Bel Canto 319 1 50 1 Memorial Day Bonus Roll # 1
May 24 $3 35 The Division Bell Mystery 254     4 Memorial Day Bonus Roll # 2
May 27 $5 Go! - -     - Passed Go
May 27 $3 4 Ways of Escape 309     3.5  
May 30 $3 11 The Singing Sands 246     4  
June 1 $3 15 Annapurna 246     2 Doubles roll
June 1 $5 23 My Traitor's Heart 416        
June 6 $2 36 Who Spoke Last 187     4  
June 8 $5 Go! - -       Passed Go
June 8 $2 10 The Wind Blows Death 199     3.5 Doubles roll
June 8 $3 Why! The Butchering Art 304     5  
June 10 $5 25 Rebecca 441     5  
June 12 $2 35 The Age of Light 375 1 114 1.5  
June 14 $5 Go!           Passed Go
June 14 $3 3 Death on the Cherwell 288     2  
June 16 $0 Jail Various from my ongoing reads to make up the jail fund contribution          
 Total $76     4444 2      

Reading progress update: I've read 288 out of 288 pages.

Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

Too little, too late.


Why did we need the first half of the book?

Reading progress update: I've read 93 out of 288 pages.

Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

“If genius is going to pour forth in print, someone has to pay for it, and I don’t see why I should be out of pocket so that the world can read the lines I have penned by the sweat of my brow.”

“What’s the price?” Daphne inquired.

“Half a crown—it’s a gift, the poem alone, not to mention a woodcut by Jopling.”

“But no one will buy it. You know that nobody buys new books in Oxford. They’ll go to Blackwell’s and read it there.”

Ah, good old Blackwell's. LoL. 


So, far the story is just getting sillier and sillier, all because the girls are such idiots.

Reading progress update: I've read 69 out of 288 pages.

Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

“What’s the matter? Not blood!” inquired Nina, dropping the knife.

“Worse,” declared Sally gloomily. “We have made a mess of things. Fingerprints! There would have been some, but I’ve mauled it all over!”

“Fingerprints wouldn’t be any good to us. You mean you were going to give it to the police?”

“We might have. It depends. But now, I don’t know; they’d probably be awfully mad with us for having smudged the marks.”

Good grief! These girls are so aggravatingly air-headed.


On the other hand, the developments in this chapter ... such a reminder to that other, much superior novel published in the same year. 

Reading progress update: I've read 42 out of 288 pages.

Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

“As regards the drowning, I was thinking of the young men. They may have staged an ‘accident’ in which, contrary to their plans, Miss Denning was drowned. Having rescued her too late and realized the terrible result of their so-called rag, they put her body back in the canoe. Very foolish, I admit; but these young men are foolish. It has happened before now that persons who have committed manslaughter get into a panic, and in their clumsy attempts to cover up their tracks, land themselves in danger of being put on trial for murder. But rest assured that we shall get to the truth before long. Now can you tell me, Miss Cordell, if Miss Denning could swim?”

I'm really slow in making any progress, but it might actually be in the book's favour, because I'm weirdly enjoying the process of reading this slowly and without an audio narration. 

(The audiobook is narrated by Patience Tomlinson and her narrations do not agree with me at all. So, not being read by Patience Tomlinson is already a huge mark in the book's favour.)


However, am I missing something? What "young men" is he talking about? No young men at all have made an appearance in this story so far? 


Why would a police inspector automatically blame a group of people who were not at the scene of the crime/discovery, and have never interviewed, or implicated, or even identified?


If by "young men" we are to understand the male students in Oxford, this increases the pool of suspects (again without any reason for suspicion in the first place) to most of the city's population at the time.


This is really, really stupid. 

Reading progress update: I've read 31 out of 288 pages.

Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

"Undergraduates, especially those in their first year, are not, of course, quite sane or quite adult. It is sometimes considered that they are not quite human."


Is it me, or are the group of young women all particularly "young"? I mean, I get that they are teenagers, but they seem rather childish.


They're certainly nothing like the second and third years that Ms Vane meets in Gaudy Night, not that I am looking to compare Hay's book with Sayers' masterpiece all the way through the end...but on the other hand it can't be helped. They are both set in Oxford, involve punting, and were published in the same year. 


In a way, I can see the members of the half-formed "Lode League", the secret society that the "girls" are trying to set up at the beginning of the book, getting on rather well with a certain Mr. Pomfret of Gaudy Night.

And so it begins...

I'm on holiday for a week, and what better way to start than coffee and a BL-Opoly buddy read?


Booklikes-Opoly! - Roll & Book Selection

Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

So, erm, moving on quickly from The Age of Light:


You rolled 2 dice:

2 3

Timestamp: 2019-06-13 23:07:17 UTC

(BST is an hour ahead of UTC)


...which takes me past Go! to:


3. However, by the end of the summer, I was usually bored out of my mind, and ready to go back to school (and I'm sure my mom was ready to send me back to school, too).
Read a book set in a school or college, or that is considered a "classic," (using any criteria that you want) or that is frequently banned.




Death on the Cherwell is set in a ladies' college, isn't it?!


Let's get this over with!

The Age of Light

The Age of Light - Whitney Scharer



I just can't.


Lee Miller deserves a better biography, even if it is a fictional one.

DNF @ 114 out of 375 pages.

The Age of Light - Whitney Scharer

I throw in the towel.


We have completely abandoned the historical part and any sort of character development and for the last 30 pages all we learn about is Lee's various desires for Man Ray, or really any man that reminds her of him even just a bit.


These aren't the droits I was looking for.

Reading progress update: I've read 102 out of 375 pages.

The Age of Light - Whitney Scharer

Yeah, this has fallen down the pit of soppy romance writing, which for me is the most common killer of what otherwise passes as good historical fiction.


And the author's habit of over-explaining our MC's feelings is making this worse.


Such a shame. 

Reading progress update: I've read 68 out of 375 pages.

The Age of Light - Whitney Scharer

Oh, ye gods, this isn't going to turn into a romance novel, is it???

Currently reading

Scarweather by Anthony Rolls
Progress: 100/272pages
Woza Shakespeare!: Titus Andronicus In South Africa by Gregory Doran, Antony Sher
Progress: 23/303pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 257/1344pages