Showing posts from March, 2015


My bias in this review is that I took some of it personally and started crying on the airplane.  I'll explain, but be warned there are thematic spoilers.

Magellania is one of Jules Verne's later works, related to Lighthouse in that it takes place at the southernmost tip of South America, where it is cold and dry and half-Antarctic.  The plot introduces us to a white man named Kaw-djer, who despises governments and religious authorities.  He lives among the native inhabitants of Magellania...appearing to "civilization" to be no more than a drifter or an outcast, but to his friends, a compassionate and dedicated doctor.  Kaw-djer is determined to answer to no one, and is prepared to take his life into his own hands if anyone tries to find him.  Yet surely, he thinks, no one will find him at the end of the world...

In college, and by the strangest circumstances, I became closely acquainted with someone whom I wouldn't normally have met.  Like Kaw-djer, he had been f…

Earthly Angels: Iolanta and Billy Budd

Last month, I saw two excellent productions which I've been meaning (ever since) to talk about.  One was an opera - the Met's new/first production of Iolanta, by Tchaikovsky, starring Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala.  The second was Billy Budd, a 1962 adaptation of Melville's novella, with Peter Ustinov playing Captain Vere.

Iolanta is about a princess who was born blind, and kept ignorant of the fact.  Her father, King René, insists she lives a sheltered, solitary life in the forest, hoping somehow that her betrothed, Robert, will also never learn of her blindness (until after they are married).  The king tries to enlist the help of a surgeon to give Iolanta her eyesight, though the outlook, he feels, is not promising.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, Iolanta has been found by the knight Vaudémont, who falls in love with her instantly...but is it also unconditionally?

This is such a beautiful story that it's amazing the Met waited so long.  The plotline, surprisingly dee…

'Lighthouse' - how not to read Jules Verne

For starters, this is not a review of the book The Lighthouse at the End of the World, by Jules Verne.  Rather, this is about the specific version I ordered (and am returning), which is translated by William Butcher and published by Bison Books (University of Nebraska Press).

There were three types of Verne translations which I read, back in the day.  One type was old and Victorian-esque, probably the first English translation and perhaps modified by Michel Verne (Jules's son).  Another type was the rarity - a thoughtful modern translation, often by some large publishing house.  The third type was a modern translation (usually first English) of an obscure Verne novel, with such freedom of editorial interpretation that I wish I had never read it.

Getting back to Lighthouse.  I feel positively certain the first version I read (eons ago) was the Michel Verne version, with more old-timey English.  Ok, fine.  This 2007 Butcher translation, on the other hand, was the first to translate t…

Nostalgia trip

How could reading morph from something intrinsically habitual to - a tedious chore?

While I stew on that sad thought, I will just mention these books (they come in threes) that arrived this week, and which I am, in a wistful way, excited to read.

A long time ago, I was on a magnificent Jules Verne streak, and one of the best stories was The Lighthouse at the End of the World.  I've been longing to get back into Verne, re-read my favorites and explore the umpteen other books he wrote...this one is a good place to start.

Kierkegaard's discourse on the "modern" world comes highly rated.  From even the little I've read of and about him, I sense I'll relate strongly to some of his ideas and disagree strongly with others.  A short book is a small commitment (!) and hopefully a tidy introduction.

Finally, somehow I wandered across a memoir by Jacques Cousteau, whose underwater films were a vague but memorable part of my childhood.  I had no idea this existed; I'm …