Monday, March 3, 2008

Reading List: Februrary 2008

Last month I managed to finish 14 books, plays, or graphic novels, and here is what they were:

1. The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco: The whole play is an absurdist romp conflating sex and power in a mildly inventive way. Rhinoceros was better, but I guess this wasn't all that bad.

2. Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello: Fans of Jasper Fforde will want to look into Pirandello. However, rather than all the manipulations of characters v. real people, I find myself more taken with the theme of how one event in the past can define you and stick with you, limiting your freedom in the present.

3. The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith: You can read my terrible review here, or you can accept that like most anthologies, some of the stories were great and others awful. I bought it for Chris Ware, and that was about all I got.

4. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde: Why is it that when a farce is produced today, you must check your intellect at the door and be ready to laugh at tit and fart jokes for an hour and a half? I really enjoye
d this play b/c it allowed me to enjoy it simultaneously on a sophomoric and intellectual level.

5. Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill: No other work of fiction that I have read so accurately portrays the family dynamics in a household of alcoholics. This is a truly great play.

6. In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker: Brendan Moody has raved about The Company series for a couple of years, and I decided to give it a shot. Though I found it interesting, there wasn't the level of intrigue that I thought the overall situation justified, and I was underwhelmed. Though I've been assured that the series ramps upward w/r/t complicating the metastory, I'm not sure I'll be going back to the well.

7. Galileo by Bertolt Brecht: I'm planning n writing a substantial review of a portion of this play later, and I am also writing a aper analyzing the different versions Brecht produced, so I will only say here that I enjoy this play very much.

8. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett: Do Estragon and Vladimir live in a post-apocalyptic world? And if so, is it the same post-apocalyptic world from Endgame? What if Jon came up with an idea for a paper he didn't want to write?

9. Citizen Vince by Jess Walter: A period piece crime suspense story. Whats not to like? The novel isn't w/o its faults, like the narration shifting to Jimmy Carter's and Ronald Reagan's POV for no damn reason, but it was an exciting ride.

10. Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen: Supposedly a great play, Hedda being a Lady MacBeth type role, but I didn't see it. She's an unlikable, manic depressive. But Ibsen has the best sideburns in theater history.

11. Sandman: World's End by Neil Gaiman, et al: A nice collection of short stories, with the frame story portending some sort of horrific end for the Sandman. Gaiman is an accomplished author, but I've never found the Sandman comics to live up to some of his prose work, though perhaps that's b/c I'm reading all this in reverse chronological order.

12. Writing in Restaurants by David Mamet: Picked this up on a whim, but found it a nice little collection of essays, the best of which was "Radio Drama." Invoking the dirty joke principle, Mamet counsels young playwrights on what to leave out of a narrative b/c of its unimportance. For instance, in a dirty joke when a salesman's car b
reaks down in the country and the farmer's daughter opens the door when he knocks for help, it doesn't matter what state they are in, what the farmer grows, or what color the girl's hair is. The only thing that matters is what is moving us toward the punchline, and in drama the only thing that matters it what moves us towards the climax.

13. The Homecoming by Harold Pinter: I've read this play several times, so I think I may be done with it unless I get the chance to see it staged. The way Pinter uses pauses have them full of meaning, and the way he has so many characters spouting bullshit makes one wonder if all the meaning isn't in those silences, rather than the words the characters are speaking.

14. Some Girl(s) by Neil LaBute: This is the sort of play I would write, or at least try to, but I wouldn't have had the weak ending (or probably any ending). I've read most of LaBute's work and feel that he's losing his edge. On reaching the end, I thought 'Who cares?' Also, I may quit reading the opening cast lists at the front of plays b/c I couldn't read Guy's part w/o thinking of David Schwimmer, and that was unfortunate.



Brendan Moody said...

I've never found Sandman equal to Gaiman's prose work myself. Some of the one-issue standalone stories are very impressive, but the meta-narratives tend to be dull. I don't think the Endless are actually complex enough to make interesting characters.

Anonymous said...

We read all of Oscar Wilde's dramatic works (the Penguin collection, which has an excellent critical apparatus) in a class I took at Miami, and reading The Importance of Being Earnest in its context is an interesting experience. Wilde seemingly continuously attempts to critique the Victorian social norms, but never quite pulls it off-- a certain amount of required conventionality always gets to him in the end, undermining what might be his point. But in Earnest he goes for broke, reveling in the absurdity of it all, and it is fascinating.

Not to mention that it's entirely hilarious.