Sappho and Zelda: Elective Affinities (or, Marriage and the Single Girl)

Fans of American literature will know already that, only yesterday (24 of December), The New Yorker published (online) “The Iceberg”, a short story by Zelda Sayre (later Zelda Fitzgerald), which first appeared in 1918 in the Sidney Lanier High School Literary Journal and was rediscovered recently.

Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Fitzgerald (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A few words on Stratis Tsirkas’ “Drifting Cities”

Drifting Cities by Stratis Tsirkas. My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Without a doubt the best work of narrative prose to emerge from Greece in the post-WWII era. The “Cities Adrift” are Jerusalem, Cairo, and Alexandria, where much of the drama of the Greek involvement in WWII is played out. Deftly interweaving his characters’ personal stories with events that defined recent European history (including the Greek Civil War of 1944-1949), Tsirkas provides a stunning panorama of places, peoples, and events that contributed to the making of post-war Europe.

Perhaps the most interesting and accomplished part of the trilogy is Part I (“The Club”), especially though by no means exclusively on account of its narrative technique. It alternates between traditional third-person narrative, a first-person eyewitness account (by Manos, the protagonist of the trilogy), and a fragmented interior monologue by the half-demented guesthouse owner Frau Anna. The interior monologue is pitch-perfect, and imho much more engrossing than the classic example (Molly in Joyce’s Ulysses). A must-read.

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Dust to dust

A couple of days ago, I decided to watch again, for about the umpteenth time, Kenneth Branagh’s film of Hamlet. It is a lavish 1996 production featuring some excellent performances as well as some tragic miscasts: Gérard Depardieu, Charlton Heston, and —alas!— the erstwhile sublime Julie Christie come to mind.

Cover of "Hamlet (Blu-ray Book)"

Cover of Hamlet (Blu-ray Book)

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Aeschylus in the Boudoir: Tragedy, Pornography, Ideology

Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir is a pornographic parody of the philosophic dialogue, in which acts of exorbitant depravity are mixed, rather incongruously, with (im)moral and even political didacticism. This is a tradition that goes back at least to Pietro Aretino‘s dialogues (such as The School of Whoredom), if not to Lucian‘s Dialogues of Courtesans (which however are closer to the theatrical mime than to Plato). Continue reading

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Randy Cicadas on Fire

17-year periodic cicada, Magicicada sp. brood ...

17-year periodic cicada, Magicicada sp. brood XIII, 2007. Photographed at Lisle, Illinois. Shown with Kentucky Coffee Tree – Gymnocladus dioicus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I live too far away from where the action is to experience the commotion first-hand, but I couldn’t help feeling a sort of vicarious excitement when I read that US States from North Carolina to Connecticut are about to be hit by a “Swarmageddon”.

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Family Matters: “The Godfather” and Greek Tragedy

It may be that the Great American Novel has yet to be written, although The Great Gatsby, which we touched on in last week’s post, is as good a contender for the title as any. When it comes to  the Great American Film Epic, however, many would agree that The Godfather is a definite winner, even though it is usually ranked as the second greatest American film ever, behind Citizen Kane. Ostensibly a Mafia family saga, The Godfather has been seen by many a critic as a metaphor or paradigm for American capitalist imperialism: “survival of the fittest, the ruthless annihilation of rivals and the amassing of money which in turn purchases power” (Peter Cowie, The Godfather Book (London 1997) 174). Continue reading

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Plato

The web is abuzz with, ahem, mixed reactions to Baz Luhrmann’s latest motion picture extravaganza — the $127m 3D film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and so I’ll duly refrain from passing judgement.

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