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Showing posts from May, 2018

Empire and Extravagance - Reading Émile Zola - Episode 22

Today, we venture back to 19th-century Imperial France, in two vivid novels of Émile Zola: The Ladies' Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) and The Kill (La Curée).

Links / Further Reading:
Zoladdiction 2018 - FandaClassiclit blog

"Humanzees" and The Island of Doctor Moreau - Episode 21

A magazine article provoked me to re-read H. G. Well's sci-fi horror classic, The Island of Doctor Moreau. Join my trip back in time as I talk about a Soviet scientist, a British author, and human-chimpanzee people.

Sources / Further Reading:
"It’s Time to Make Human-Chimp Hybrids" by David Barash
Articles referencing Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov:
Smithsonian MagazineLaboratory Primate Newsletter (Brown University) Wikipedia discussionH. G. Wells's The New World Order
H. G. Wells vs. George Orwell (The Conversation)
"The Comprachicos" by John Kaiser (JSTOR)
"Wanting Babies Like Themselves, Some Parents Choose Genetic Defects" (New York Times)

Bruch's Violin Concerto - A Classical Cousin

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In the spring of 1866, Max Bruch's first violin concerto was debuted by celebrity violinist Joseph Joachim.  Its auspicious beginnings paved the way for its permanent success; the concerto is still popular (here it's played by my favorite violinist, Gil Shaham).  Bridging a gap wider than 150 years, Bruch's passionate melodies still have the ability to move us, bringing to heart a time period that can feel distant in pictures or even on paper.

For comparison's sake, I found a Goodreads book list called "Popular 1860s Books."  It's really astounding to see so many famous books there, at a glance.  High on the list is, of course, Little Women, whose recent Masterpiece Classic adaptation I've enjoyed watching on PBS (tomorrow is the conclusion!).

Clearly great classics of art and literature did not appear within a vacuum.  I'd love to think a writer somewhere in Bruch's audience was inspired by the story he tells with this piece.

Favorite Authors: Franz Kafka - Episode 20

In this episode, I reminisce over the time I met Franz Kafka and my own "metamorphosis" as I discovered his Kafkaesque world.

A Fistful of Dollars - An Outsider's Review

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Mild disclaimer...I'm what you would call a "casual" Western fan.  I've read very few Westerns, and my viewing experience has been largely of the vintage variety, ranging from John Wayne classics to more obscure TV series, like my all-time favorite, The Virginian.  I've mostly avoided heavier fare, a la The Revenant, and to be honest, the first Western I liked was a Gary Cooper comedy called Along Came Jones (1945).


The above makes me particularly ill-qualified to review Westerns as an overall genre.  But since watching A Fistful of Dollars (1964) with my parents last night, I thought I'd share some first impressions of an early Clint Eastwood film.  (Note: my "first" first impression of Eastwood was his film The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), which was too gritty for me to really enjoy.)

A Fistful of Dollars is the first of director Sergio Leone's famous "Dollars" trilogy, three "spaghetti Westerns" so-called due to being Italian …

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

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Peter Pan - immortal, magical, and forever lonely - has his origins in a novella called Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906).  This little story predates the more famous novel Peter and Wendy by some years (the latter I reviewed in my latest podcast episode "Getting Older with Peter Pan").  Like his fictional contemporary Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan was both a real-life figure and a figment of imagination, a character who would haunt his author for decades.  There are glimpses of this bittersweet legacy in Kensington Gardens, itself an excerpt of a larger novel, The Little White Bird.  Through this iterative story development, one easily senses J. M. Barrie's personal connection to the Peter Pan mythos.

The tale begins with an anonymous father-figure and a boy named David who take walks in London's famous Kensington Gardens.  The narrative drifts from a conversational discussion of the Gardens (and how children like to play there) to the two "remembering" t…

Getting Older with Peter Pan - Episode 19

We start off Season 2 with a journey to the Never Land - the dangerous yet dazzling world of Peter Pan, where even grownups can learn a thing or two.

Links / Further Reading:
J. M. Barrie's "Atrocious" Cricket Club
"The Adventure of the Two Collaborators"
"Perceptions of Childhood" - Reynolds, The British Library
"Wendy" song - Peter Pan Live!
Opening quote read by Will Ching (LibriVox)