I remember picking up Matthew Plampin’s Will and Tom in the bookshop at the Tate Britain – and then putting it back, just as I’d put back half a dozen other hardbacks in the last day. In truth, after lugging many and many and many pounds of books across Europe over the years, I’ve learned, when I’m travelling, to only buy the ones that can’t conceivably be procured through the Net – either digitally or physically. So I jotted down the title in my notebook’s dedicated page, and in time the novel found its way to my Kindle. Then, for some reason, it took me a few years to get round to actually read it. If you have a To Read List of any length, you know how these things happen… Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago my mother discovered, with considerable amusement, the existence of Talk Like a Pirate Day, and asked why I didn’t post about it.
“Never have,” I said. “I don’t even like pirate stories.”
“Nonsense,” was the answer. “You’ve read lots of them.”
And I protested that no, really – in fact, I rather dislike pirate stories… And I was thinking of Jack Sparrow and company, but even more of Salgari’s insufferable Sandokan and multi-coloured corsairs, without which no Italian childhood is considered complete… Continue reading
How my father happened to lose his own old copy of Gösta Berling’s Saga, I have no idea. When it came to books, the Colonel was an odd mix of jealous worship and carelessness… But somehow or other the book was lost.
What I know for sure is that, many years later, I found an old copy of the Saga in a second-hand bookshop in Pavia – an old, tiny and delightful place named Il Parnaso, the kind of place where one can while away a rainy afternoon making discovery after wonderful discovery… oh, you know what I mean. Now, my found Saga was not the same edition my father had lost – but it was old, a little worse for wear, and bore an ex-libris explaining how it had been saved during some flooding or other of the Ticino, Pavia’s river. Continue reading
Obviously Scotland does this to me: it sends me on Jacobite tangents. Fictional tangents, mostly – because really, the moment you try a history book, the whole adventure loses much of its shine. Then again, seven decades of intermittent and unsuccessful attempts at restoring a royal line with the dubious aid of a foreign power were bound to be, on the one hand not terribly well organised, and on the other, perfect novel material… I mean: how can you have plenty of exiles headed by a handsome and charming prince, loyal clans, recurring bursts of violence, conspirations, secret messages, toasts to the King Across the Water, songs, divided families, spirited ladies, battles, and an ultimately doomed cause – and not expect an abundance of fiction? And of course, the foremost charm of the Jacobites is that of the doomed and defeated. Would we care very much about them, would we write novels, if they’d won? Continue reading
Do you remember my Reading Week – the one I could not have this year?
Well, it seems that I must have it, after all – in fact, quite a bit longer than a week, whether I want it or not. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love the chance to read, read, and read some more – and a longish vacation is something I haven’t taken in… oh, something more than a decade, I’d think. Still, I’d have vastly preferred to do without the trouble and hospitalisation that caused this one particular vacation… Continue reading
There is no doubt that, when it comes to researching historical novels, there is a Before the Internet and an After the Internet.
I daresay the same applies to a lot of fields – but let me stick to mine: I’m old enough to remember a time when, if you were Italian and wanted, say, to read Henslowe’s Diary, your best option was a trip of several hundred kilometers – to read the book in Bologna or Venice, supposing someone had told you that Nineteenth Century copies of JP Collier’s edited version were to be found there at all*… Continue reading
A few days ago I was talking books with a reasonably educated and definitely adult acquaintance – and, on saying that I’ve read a good deal of Dickens through the years, I earned a raised eyebrow and this question: but isn’t Dickens a children’s author?
Right then I raised an eyebrow in turn – but I have to admit that my acquaintance had reasons to think so. Very Italian reasons that have little to do with the audience Dickens wrote for… Continue reading
I first came across Tom o’Bedlam via Kipling – in Stalky & Co., when Beetle (or was it M’Turk?) copies in his notebook the eerie and fantastical last verse:
With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end:
Methinks it is no journey.
And then there is the Shakespeare Quarterly, the Folger Library’s journal – that has a double life, as a physical publication and as its web version. No need to stress that the SQ is always full of interesting essays, articles, insights, interviews, and is a great way to have to pulse of ongoing Shakespearean research.
Have a look, for instance, at this conversation with Ewan Fernie and Paul Kottman about freedom: Shakespeare and freedom, freedom in Shakespeare’s works, freedom and Shakespearean studies – together with a good hint at the always interesting question of how, apparently, no time can help the temptation of building its own Shakespeare.
Well worth a look – and an exploration of the good amounts of SQ material available online.