Ammon Shea is My New Hero

Eyyyyyyy Wssup guys This was the entire first post that started a thread in a group I belonged to on Facebook. I think seeing it aged me a decade, and encouraged me to leave the group afterwards. Walking barefoot on broken glass would cause me less distress. All the poster needed to do to make me despair enough to seriously consider slitting my wrists … (more)

Casanova Dies in Bohemia

At the end of his long and storied life, Giacomo Casanova found himself a lonely man in a damp, cold castle in Bohemia, a small German kingdom distant from all the places where he had lived and loved. The servants mocked him, making fun of his stuffy, outdated and foreign fashions, his powdered wigs and stiff formality. He is from an older world, a … (more)

Montaigne on Ketchup-Flavoured Cheetos

In his famous work, Essays, Michel de Montaigne, channelling the Epicureans, wrote that, “All the opinions in the world point out that pleasure is our aim. (Book I: On the Power of Imagination).” And I have to admit that what we euphemistically call “junk food” is a widespread pleasure that many of us enjoy these days. Of course, Montaigne, ever the skeptic, also wrote, … (more)

Musings on The Tempest and Council

It was a dark and stormy night… Shakespeare’s last solo-authored play, The Tempest, opens with a storm (the eponymous tempest) in which a group of elite passengers (a king, a duke, relatives, and courtly hangers-on) gets washed overboard (or jump) while the working sailors remain safe onboard their ship. In fact, the working class are sturdy, brave, and steadfast as they struggle to save … (more)

A Meeting of the Minds?

Niccolo Machiavelli and Michel de Montaigne never met, nor could they have — Machiavelli died six years before Montaigne was born, and they lived about 1,200 km (800 miles) apart — but imagine the conversations they could have had if they had lived at the same time and close enough to visit one another, to have dinner together. Imagine the hard-nosed philosopher of the … (more)

Musings on Reading Literature

There’s a passage from the novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog (by Muriel Barbery, Europa Editions, 2008, p. 116-117) that so delighted me when I came across it that I read it aloud to Susan: “Mildly hemorrhagic urine” is, to me, a form of light entertainment: it has a nice ring to it and evokes a singular world, a brief refreshing change from literature. … (more)

Musings on Shakespeare Guidebooks

Unless you’re an academic who has studied The Bard for your entire career, you really need a guide, a Virgil if you will, to enter the dark forest of Shakespeare and find your way about in it. At the very least, you’ll want a guide to Shakespeare’s language and wordplay to illuminate the texts. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides to be had in … (more)

Musings on Reading the Bard Over a Year

Wonderful thing, the internet. You can type “complete works reading list Shakespeare” into a search engine and come up with dozens of lists with a recommended order for reading The Bard’s plays and poems over the period of a year. And none of them the same or seemingly made with the same logic. But, it seems, many have taken up the challenge. In almost … (more)

Musings on Shakespearean Apocrypha

When the First Folio was published in 1623, it had 36 of the Bard’s plays, listed in three categories: histories, tragedies, and comedies (it didn’t include his longer poems, or the sonnets)*. And even then, these were not all of his plays. Several were not included, although they were known to the folio’s compilers. For reasons unknown, there were several plays missing from the … (more)

Musings on Aesop and Local Politics

I’ve always liked reading “wisdom tales”; I still read and delight in those Zen Buddhist stories that Paul Reps recounted in his book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, which I first encountered in the late 1960s. Not long after that, I discovered the many tales of the Mulla Nasrudin retold by Idries Shah, and the stories of the Wise Men of Chelm, the imaginary city … (more)

Musing on the Authorship Question Again

The “authorship question” — who wrote Shakespeare’s works, aside that is, from Shakespeare himself — is a conspiracy that seems a metaphor for modern society.  It contains the seeds of many popular conspiracies within it: pseudoscience, suspicions about authority, declarations of revelation, blind faith, angry defences, opinions and interpretations, Youtube quacks, amateurs posing as researchers, wild claims, and the paranoia we find on social … (more)

Killing Commendatore

I’ve been a fan of Haruki Murakami’s novels for several, recent years, and have read nine or ten of them already. Those I’ve read have all fit into the category of “magical realism”; a style of fiction that was made famous by Latin American authors like Gabriel García Márquez (you would have encountered this in his bestselling book, 100 years of Solitude).* It’s a … (more)

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