On Shakespeare's birth and death anniversary, some notes on one of his comedies, 'Much Ado About Nothing'. The entire play is a “skirmish of wit”, as Shakespeare himself called it, between a playboy bachelor, Benedick, and a sharp-tongued spinster, Beatrice (one of my all-time favorite Shakespearean women.) To read this as simply a love story would be to short-change its overall wit and insightfulness. It is also more than a light-hearted comedy because, through these two characters, Shakespeare makes many nuanced observations about men and women and how we (mis)understand and (mis)play with each other.
Here's my review of Michelle Dean's Sharp which is about the ten women writers who changed the NYC intellectual scene (and, therefore, that of the US) in the 20th-century. Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm — all earned their intellectual reputations by doing everything the male writers did, but often with more sass, style, and yes, smarts. Readers and writers all over the world still quote from these women's works, many of which continue to stand the test of time.
Throughout time, the large-scale violence that entire groups of people inflict upon other groups has been depicted in all forms of art. In the literary arts, in particular, the aesthetics of war have long been glorified or explicated through tales of heroes and tales of disillusionment, chronicles of fighters and resistors, historically accurate accounts and revisionist retellings . . . With the short story form, there have been some game-changing, award-winning collections, from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), about Vietnam, to Phil Klay's Redeployment (Penguin, 2014) about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These have not sought to glorify violence but to show us the many individual and heartbreaking ways that wars are waged, witnessed, and resisted.