Saturday, 11 February 2012

Reading 2012



A Game of Thrones - George R R Martin (loved it!)

Children of Men - PD James (I was expecting to love it, but found it strangely disappointing)

Of Mice and Men - Steinbeck (can't believe I hadn't read this before. Bit miserable ain't it? Dead mice, dead dogs, dead puppies, dead women...)

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (a re-read for work)

A View from the Bridge - Arthur Miller (another re-read for work)

A Clash of Kings - George RR Martin (I still love it!)

Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller (enjoyed this)

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy (cinematic prose)

Night of the Iguana - Tennessee Williams (sultry, seedy and um, lizardy)

A Storm of Swords - George RR Martin (I was reading this for bloody weeks. Need a break!)

White Oleander - Janet Fitch (don't be sucked in by the poetic prose - it's just chick lit)

Home - Toni Morrison (a bit underwhelming)

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver (pretty dire)

The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks (a re-read. Enjoyable but typical Banks - great premise and build up but shame about the ending)

As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner (absolutely brilliant)

Even the Dogs - Jon McGregor (weirdly I read this after As I Lay Dying - which it's directly influenced by. I quite enjoyed a lot of it, but sometimes it seemed a bit forced)

Brick Lane - Monica Ali (couldn't finish it. Page 178).

The Song of Achilles - Madeleine Miller (essentially a romance genre novel wrapped up in a bit of Homer. Quite disposable)

Oedipus the King - Sophocles, trans. Robert Bagg (a more modern translation. Jarred in a few places. I'd also prefer a bit more gloomy melancholia)

Just My Type: A Book about Fonts - Simon Gafield (loved it! Who doesn't love a good font/typeface?)

The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood (quite fun but a little forced in places)

Much Ado About Nothing (a re-read for work)

The Lacuna - Barabara Kingsolver (I found this a bit of a drag in places but some of the American history was quite interesting - McCarthy era red witch-hunts)

A Feast for Crows - George R R Martin (a bit slow in places and missing loads of characters.  Definitely the weakest of the bunch so far)

Family Album - Penelope Lively (my first by her. Terribly middle class but quite enjoyable. Not sure there really was an awful dark family secret though)

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (a re-read. She's still one of my favourite writers)

22.11.63 - Stephen King (seriously is this for real? YAWN)

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (yeah this was quite fun)

Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates (despite some really moving parts didn't grab me as much as I thought it would)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

I heart I Claudius

I've just finished re-watching the BBC adaptation of I, Claudius (1976).  I've always been a sucker for Roman history.  I even stumbled through a Latin A-level.  Some of my fondest school memories are of Metella est in atrio, and Grumio est in culina and poor bloody Cerberus est always in via.  I use "fond" in the loosest sense you understand.

Whenever it was time for a "fun" lesson our Latin teacher would whack a creaky VHS of I, Claudius into the VCR.  Being a teacher now I can appreciate the inward sigh of relief about a "fun" lesson spent watching something vaguely relevant.

They're all a ghastly bunch of course.  The Romans I mean.  The Julio-Claudian family were poisoning each other left right and centre.  That's probably because they were all hugely inbred, what with the marrying first and second cousins and nieces and all that.

But the BBC do it well.  No special effects, no snazzy edits.  Just good solid British drama and the cliche of wobbly sets (this actually happens).  Some of the microphones aren't properly set up either so you can't hear some of the lines.  All the high class Roman families and senators speak with perfect RP.  They all get terribly shocked by the scandals going on around the Palatine.  We get treated to an array of acting heavyweights too: Derek Jacobi, Sian Phillips, Brian Blessed, George Baker, John Hurt and Patrick Stewart.  Patrick Stewart!  He's the 'got ideas above his station' Praetorian guard, Sejanus.  Still speaks impeccably though.  Perhaps the chief of the guard was an Equestrian?  One of my favourite parts has to be John Hurt prancing around in make-up and women's underwear as Caligula in his 'I'm totally mad, me' phase.

Of course, all the rest of the army - the grunts and shafters - speak with regional accents.  From wherever you like.  As do all the workers.  Love it.