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.
UPDATE: April 21, 2017:
It’s Charlotte Brontë’s birthday today so I’m reblogging this from last year.
I recently watched the TV movie on the Brontës: ‘To Walk Invisible’. Written and directed by the wonderful Sally Wainwright, it is more faithful to the Gaskell biography version than to any other. This means it shows Branwell, the brother, as the main cause for the loss of their meager family fortunes due to his alcoholism and drug addiction, especially during the last three years of his life. While this was handled with great care to make sure he did not come across as some monster, I wish we had seen more of the sisters than we did of the brother. Read on for more.
In my book circles, the Austen vs Brontës debate has come up often. And, though I’ve come to appreciate Austen’s finer points over time, I have always preferred the Brontës. With the three Brontë sisters, there’s the Charlotte vs Emily debate (Anne, sadly, doesn’t get much airtime). This has been harder. For years, I stuck with Emily because I found ‘Wuthering Heights’ more poetic in terms of language — I never cared for the whole Heathcliff-and-Cathy psychopathology.
That said, I reread ‘Jane Eyre‘ recently and I am now firmly in the Charlotte Brontë camp. This is not just another Gothic romance. If you read it in the context of its times and its author’s life, it is a work of remarkable daring and independence. Jane Eyre is a strong-willed woman who manages to get past her plain looks and poverty and stand up to the…
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Fiction from real world events has been done since our cave-dwelling ancestors drew crude wall graphics or sat around fires telling each other embellished and exaggerated personal anecdotes. So, the first step for me, before I began my own such short story, was to look at examples of outstanding short fiction primarily inspired by headlines or real events. Below, you will find five such stories (free to read online, just click the story title link) from Roxane Gay, Robert Olen Butler, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Susan Glaspell, and Meera Nair. From quietly tragic to cleverly satiric to magically surreal, these stories do a whole lot more than tell us what simply happened: they show us the textures, shapes, and densities that might exist below the superficial layers and what that might mean for our own lives.