1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear by James Shapiro. Followup to his previous book 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare.
Fairly interesting, but I didn't like it as much as the predecessor. Shakespeare wasn't writing so prolifically at this period so there's less material, and while the Gunpowder Plot may have been more significant, it's also more familiar. Some of the influences between history and literature seem either tenuous or obvious. Lear's grim tale of a kingdom split up was pretty clearly intended as a mirror of James' overoptimistic attempts to formally unite England and Scotland.
However there are some fascinating bits. It's good to see that by this point even some of his contemporaries were complaining that they couldn't understand what Shakespeare was going on: it's not just us.
There were lots of court masques going on in James', with expensive effects and sycophantic scripts written for huge fees: it's interesting that Shakespeare didn't try to write for this market despite being a Kings Man. Shapiro thinks this was artistic integrity.
Another good point is that the intense rehearsal demands of Elizabethan theatre with its ultra-short runs meant that while he was acting, Shakespeare probably didn't have the time to collaborate with other playwrights, he might have only written at night. Shakespeare's collaborations therefore come from either before or after his acting career.
Overall, not a bad followup, but better to start with the original.
What I'm Reading 2
Death's End by Cixin Liu. Third in the hard SF trilogy that started with the superb "The Three Body Problem". I wasn't sure it would live up to the last two, but Liu manages to actually surpass them with some brilliant science fiction that takes things to a Stapledonian level.
He takes the ideas from the last two, then builds and extrapolates just as the best SF does. One of the revelations really blew my mind.
Absolutely essential series if you like hard science fiction.
What I'm Reading 3
Found a few Jack Reacher stories by Lee Child on my library's reading app, the novellla High Heat and the stories "Deep Down", "James Penney's New Identity", "Guy Walks Into a Bar", "Not a Drill", "Small Wars". "High Heat" follows a teenage Jack Reacher into the New York blackout of 1978 where he gets into the usual situation after objecting to a Mafia Made Man slapping a woman in the street. Not bad, but Reacher is his usual indestructible self: would have been good to see him a bit less confident and capable as a teenager. I guess people don't read Jack Reacher stories for the character development though.
The other stories are pretty decent, taking ideas that would be a bit stretched as novels.
What I'm Watching
Saw the claustrophobic thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane about a young woman waking up in a survivalist's bunker who tells her that a mysterious catastrophe has devastated the world. Liked it a lot, very tense, with good performances. John Goodman was great as the avuncular/sinister survivalist, seemed plausibly disturbed.
I quite liked the ending ((spoiler which some hated. I think it could have done with more plausible action. I suppose Americans have generally never tried to set fire to a Chrismas Pudding, but I find it hard to believe when a bottle of spirits is as devastating as a high explosive shell).
Trump Politics. Yanis Varoufakis: After Donald Trump. Barack Obama passes the baton of the security state. Why was Trump elected. Facebook campaigning. Hillary election myths 1, 2, 3 and the problems with her Ada software. Stop crying wolf over Trump. From the Before Time: Remember the Permanent Democratic Majority? Scenario C always had Republicans winning EC and losing popular vote. Tuesday should not change the narrative.
Other Politics Ed Balls & modern "politics": it's a mistake to take politics seriously.
Random. Medieval book curses. 1994 Scientology Handbook
Articles. Children, war toys and violence. The underrated Gus Grissom. Google Jockeying is having a student Googling live to accompany a lecture.
Video. Underwater Flatulence in 120 Fps (NSFW).
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