Book Reviews

Eugene O’Neill’s first professionally produced play, a one-act play entitled “Bound East for Cardiff,” premiered in 1916, first at the small Provincetown (MA) playhouse, then in New York.  The play has personal significance for me as it was my introduction to O’Neill, back in the sophomore year of high school.  Following that introduction, I went on something of an O’Neill binge, reading a large portion of O’Neill’s oeuvre, starting with his four “Glencairn” plays.  Following “Bound East,” O’Neill wrote three more one-act plays (“The Moon of the Carribees,” “In the Zone,” and “Long Voyage Home”) about the crew of the Glencairn, a merchant ship operating in the Atlantic during WWI. 

I'm not sure I've ever had a novel recommended to me more highly, more insistently, by more people, than The Force by Don Winslow.

The Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, was especially known for his witty control of and deft use of the English language, and nowhere does he demonstrate this facility with English better than in the play, The Importance of Being Earnest.  The title itself, with its pun on “earnest” and “Ernest,” with all its characters often very “earnest,” but not always or consistently truthful, gives a hint to the reader and viewer what craziness will ensue. 

The greatest challenge about reviewing Jerusalem by Alan Moore is summarizing what it's about. This isn't a traditional novel and it doesn't deliver a normal story. The plot is meandering, almost vestigial in some sections. Setting is paramount—language, tone, atmosphere, characters: all of these matter far more than mere plot.

I've come to think of this book as being akin to the Bayeux Tapestry—a sprawling and artistically audacious account of a place and its people. It's a love letter to a neighborhood as only Moore can write it.

Doctor Faustus (1967), dir. Richard Burton and Nevill Coghill, based on The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (c. 1590) by Christopher Marlowe. w/ Richard Burton (Doctor Faustus), Elizabeth Taylor (Helen), Andreas Teuber (Mephistophiles).

Library staff members share their best reading experiences of the past year.

There are three poets who really break the mold, and set the stage for the modern poetry of the 20th century – these are Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman in America, and Gerard Manley Hopkins in Britain.

Basho is famous as a composer of haiku. Some even suggest he invented the form, though he did not. One of his most famous works is Oku No Hosomichi (trans. as The Narrow Road to the Interior). This work is considered one of the masterpieces of classical Japanese literature. In form, the work is an haibun, a mixture of prose and haiku. It is an impressionistic journal of a journey Basho made, mostly on foot, in the Spring of 1689. Over the course of 156 days, he traversed about 1500 miles. At the conclusion of his journey from Edo (Tokyo) to the north, and back again, he spent five years refining and completing the work for publication. There are people who go to Japan to retrace Basho’s steps. Given the great changes from Japan of 1689 to Japan in the 21st century, this is impossible in any real sense. In any event, we are not Basho and cannot replicate what happened to him over 400 years ago. But we can appreciate his own depiction of that experience. It is unclear whether Basho attained enlightenment, but, in his haiku, and his other verse, he does aim at the annihilation of subject and object that is key to enlightenment. Haiku is all about the distilling of experience to its essence and somehow summoning the moment that led to an “aha!” moment.

The library contains this work, together with some of Basho’s other haibu and selected haiku, in The Essential Basho, trans. By Sam Hamill.

The Romans sometimes get grief for "copying" everything from other cultures. The Romans were masters at taking what worked from different cultures they encountered, adopting it, and adapting it to Roman use.

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Andrea Mays in The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio examines Folger and his mania.

Mark van Doren's Shakespeare is a sensitive, enthusiastic, and insightful collection of short essays on Shakespeare's plays and his poetry first published in 1939.

As dramatic pieces, the works of Shakespeare are best experienced in performance, not the page. Here are just a few productions of Hamlet on film, available for checkout from the Library.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is the kind of novel you get when non-Western storytelling traditions and sensibilities use the quintessentially Western cultural tools and structures of Science Fiction.

Shakespeare's plays Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II, and Henry V—often called the Henriad—deal with the rise of Henry Bolingbroke, his rocky reign as king, and the better fortune of his son, Henry V.

Robert Graves was a fascinating man. A poet and novelist of some note, he was also a respected classical scholar and translator. And like many of his generation, he served in the British Army during World War I.

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