In states unborn and accents yet unknown


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Some more Julius Caesar, do you mind?

jchowmanyagesThe fact is that, because of Shakespeare in Words, I had a special thrill when, in Act 3.I, the conspirators bathe their hands in dead Caesar’s blood – half barbaric ritual, half preparation to face the angry and upset crowds outside. Very much like actors before a play, they plan to appear with bloody hands and swords, shouting “Peace, freedom, and liberty.” Continue reading

The Tragedie of Junius Brutus


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jc53I re-watched Mankiewicz’s 1953 Julius Caesar, last night – the one with James Mason, Marlon Brando and John Gielgud – all the more happily because I’d been very much afraid that Shakespeare would disappear from Italian television after the end of 2016.

Of course it’s early days – but let us hope. Meanwhile, I  I was once more struck by how much the play is centred on Brutus, for all that it is titled for The Life and Death of Julius Caesar… Well, certainly Caesar’s death is the centrepiece, and in life and death he deeply affects all the other characters well after he is stabbed in Act 3. Still, Brutus, his doubts and his resolutions are often centre-stage, and I can’t help wondering. Continue reading

The Next Book (and a small epiphany in passing)


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untitled-148redAfter finishing the last of my Christmas reads (the second book in Lexie Conyngham’s very enjoyable Murray of Letho series), I have struggled to choose my next book.

As already stated – and as, I’m sure, is the case with all of you – I have a To Read Least far longer than my arm and ever-growing, so after each book I spend ages browsing my shelves and piles, or poring over my Kindle’s menu page, like Buridan’s Donkey – with far too many pails of water and stacks of hay. This time, the process was made even slower by the fact that I’m readingreadingreading up for my new play-to-be, so that my leisure reading time is rather reduced…

Well, anyway, last night I decided to give a try to a novel about Irish leader Robert Emmet. I have some interest in the character and period, but know little enough about both – except that I recently read Dion Boucicault’s entertainingly overblown 1884 play on the same subject. So, why not try a (purportedly far more accurate) novel? So I began Tread Softly etc with every intention of liking it, and… untitled-149

I did not. Or at least… I don’t think there’s much wrong with the gentle pace and old-fashioned writing – I usually like the sort – but by page twenty I’d had enough of the author’s obvious hero-worship of  her protagonist. Still a teenager, young Emmet was showing such a degree of perfection that it was too much for me. It is entirely possible that things would have grown better with some persistence, and perhaps I’ll go back to the novel later, when I’m… oh, I don’t know. The  fact is that right now I’m not spending my limited reading time with gentle, soft-spoken, intelligent, determined, brave, wise-beyond-their-years, determined, elegant in mind and body and whatnot fifteen-years old.

untitled-151Which is how, by one of those leaps of logic, I turned to Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist – and found an entirely different kind of book. The writing is dense, with a certain timeless quality to it and a fine rhythm. The characters are wonderfully drawn, the details are rich, and sharp, and vivid, so that 17th Century Amsterdam jumps out of the page, with the clarity and cold light of a Dutch painting, and the present tense narration provides the whole with a sense of growing tension. Lovely. I was soon captured – and there is my next read. A read of the sort one can’t wait to go back to. And well – it’s early pages, and I know by bitter experience that plenty can go wrong before the ending. Let us say that, if things keep up as the seem to promise so far, The Miniaturist is very likely to give me book-lag when I’ve finished it.

And because this is the effect I’d love to produce in my readers (who wouldn’t?), I began to think about my own novel-in-progress. Am I making my hero insufferable in some way? I’m rather sure he is far from too perfect – but is there something else that might make it hard for the reader to like him? Am I writing to safely? Too untitled-150Elizabethanishly, I’ve been told, and tried to remedy – but is the language effective, and distinct, and vivid? And how about my setting’s details? Am I using the right ones? Am I using them right? Am I conveying not just a convincing sense of Elizabethan London – but an engaging one?

Ah well – this might as well be a case of what David Corbett was discussing in the article I mentioned in Tuesday’s post. Perfect, don’t you think? Now I am, most definitely, inspired to emulation.

What was the last book that inspired you in this way?

Inspired to emulation


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readwriteI think I already told you about Writer Unboxed, a lovely writerly site, full of good ideas, thought-provoking questions, fine articles, practical wisdom, and so on.

Well, today on WU, David Corbett posed the question of reading or not reading while writing. He begins by observing that many writers seem to prefer not to – to avoid the risk of imitation, mostly – and then goes on to make a very convincing case for the opposite course of action. Continue reading

Of Lamps and Comfort Zones


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newyearresA few days ago, I posted on my Italian blog a small list of New Year’s resolutions – although I prefer to think in terms of intentions, because for me it works better that way. The usual things, mostly – sending my novel Out There, writing a couple of plays I have in the workings, reorganizing my house in a serious way, and writing something outside of my comfort zone… Continue reading

Shylock’s Appeal


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And here I was, staring at the screen, quite at a loss about what to write…  So very much at a loss that I asked for help.

“Write about the opaque days between around the end of the year,” Lady’s Mantle said. “Not enough of 2016 left, not yet 2017…” Which strikes me as a fitting theme for poetry, rather than a post.

“Write about the lovely sunsets we get whenever the fog allows it,” said Mother. Pretty, but not quite like Scribblings…

shylAnd so here I sat, staring at the screen and even more at a loss than before, when Rodolfo called, ordering me to turn on the telly, and have a look at a thing called Perché Shylock, that is Why Shylock. Continue reading

Oh dear…


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untitled-5Oh, I’ve been neglecting Scribblings something bad, lately…

The fact is, December is December, and I always find myself trotting around, doing errands, hunting for presents, queuing at the post office, crafting insanely complicated Christmas decorations…

And how is this differend from anyone else’s  December, you’ll ask? Oh, it isn’t at all, I suppose – except that I never quite understand just where all the hours go, and my poor little blog suffers for it… Well, I expect things to go back to some kind of normalcy after Christmas. Or at least, I hope.z

Meanwhile, did you know this website, devoted entirely to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol?

It is a real treasure trove: there is the story itself, of course, and essays about it, and articles about Dickens and his works, and Dickens’s own essays on Christmas, and galleries of vintage illustrations, and artwork, and information about many adaptations for the screen and radio, and links…

As I said, a treasure trove if you are a fan of the book.

I am. And while cynical enough to raise an eyebrow at Scrooge’s fright-induced U turn, and to see the element of emotional blackmail, I find – every December – that I don’t mind too much being emotionally blackmailed when it comes to Christmas…


A Tale of Tech Rehearsals


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locsiwquistellosmallbwOne cold afternoon upon a time, we entered – the Squirrels, and Gemma, and I – a theatre in a small town around here, to settle in for a performance that night.

It was ten minutes to four, and I had arranged to meet the electrician to fix the lights, and we had a few pieces of scenery to mount. After which…

“We’re doing the lights first thing – but look, I want a tech rehearsal afterwards,” I warned. “If I can’t have one, there will be murder.”

Of course, they all said in round-eyed innocence. Of course I was going to have my rehearsal. Who did I take them for? And, after all these years, how naïve must I be? Gentle Reader, I believed them. There was plenty of time, I blithely thought – and cheerfully set to work with the electrician, while the men mounted our rostra. Continue reading