Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Topics revisited.

It's yet another fun day of sloth here at House O' Samurai. It's rained all day, the Goober's been in her pajamas, and we've both been snacking and have totally blown off regular meals. She's having a ball. Boy, is she going to hate a return to real life, tomorrow.

Anyway, there have been a couple subjects raised here in the last week or so that got a lot of comments, and I wanted to comment upon them further, so here you go.


I can't tell from some of the comments left if people were generally agreeing with me, or if some of you thought I was trying to tell you how to spend your money. If it's the second case, please let me reassure you. Not only do I think it's rude to tell someone how to spend their money, I also think there are a lot of worse things to do with your spare cash than buy yarn. I'm firing up the dye pot again, now that the weather has cooled, and will be re-listing the sock yarn left over from last year as well. So please. Buy all the yarn you want. If you wanna insulate your house with it, knock yourself out.


I said Shakespeare was a hack, and people went wild. Which, no offense, is kind of why I can't stand the guy. It's not so much that he truly sucks, it's that everyone holds him up as the be-all end-all of English lit, and really all he was, was a pop culture wonk, trying to make a buck. Amy Lane and I have discussed this in e-mail a little bit... she compared him to Stephen Spielburg, that he made a bunch of movies/plays and some money and was pretty much the pop culture king of his day. Personally I think Amy's giving The Bard too much credit. Spielburg has used his talent for some good social awareness (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List), and The Bard's social awareness didn't go much further than sucking up to the royal family. I think of The Bard more as a historic version of Jerry Bruckheimer.

Studying Shakespeare in school, to me, is kind of like if they took a Brukheimer movie, let's say Pirates of the Caribbean, waited four hundred years, and because it was old, said it was profound. Then they make every kid in school watch it and discuss it, and people put on tuxedos and spend a week's pay to see it over and over in fancy theaters. That's what we do with Shakespeare. So, if you wanna read Shakespeare, and like the guy, knock yourselves out. But I don't think he was some fantastical example of Great Literature. He was just a guy, a product of his time, trying to make a buck. (And I don't think he's the one who actually wrote the plays, I think a peer of the realm did it anonymously, but that's a discussion for another day.)

What do I like, you may ask? Well, if we're talking about historic writings that I find profound, or at least throught-provoking, I go further back and hit what I consider the really good stuff. Beowulf, the Ulster Cycle (there is a good novelization of it called The Red Branch, by Morgan Llewellyn), the Arthurian Legends (and the related, older, Welsh stuff), the Icelandic Sagas (which Tolkien ripped off -er- adapted). Like that. All contain great commentary on the human condition, great stories, and fascinating characters. Plus they're as old or older than Shakespeare, and so I think legitimate if we're going for historic fiction. Plus there's always Canterbury Tales, but that's about sex and farting, though good for a laugh. Aristophanes was pretty funny, too, but seriously low class. I don't care if he was famous and ancient and wrote in Greek.

I guess profundity is in the eye of the beholder. Folklore fans, all those links above came from Sacred Texts, a wonderful database of all that is holy (or used to be holy) from all over the world. Enjoy.

It has begun raining, again, so I'm going to click "publish" before the cable goes out.


amy said...

I didn't think YOU were telling people how to spend their money. I think the people who pass judgment on the yarn other people choose to buy are trying to tell people how to spend their money. (Did that make sense?)

My medieval English Lit class was my least favorite. I'm sure there's stuff in Beowulf and the Ulster Cycle that I would like, if only I could get through the old English, or whatever level English it was, to understand it.

Amy Lane said...

I didn't get that from your stashing post...and we all knew I was crazy anyway...I just thought my obscene amount of yarn sort of put the seal on the deal...

I don't know...I think Shakespeare's body of work made a commentary--basically, politics and personal issues don't mix. Every prince who ever fell in love in Shakespeare had it end badly... rulers should stay celibate and tend to their countries, is pretty much what he's saying! And I never did buy that peer of the realm thing, although I do think that he DIDN'T write Henry VIII. But then, I love Spielberg AND Shakespeare... ( that doesn't mean that I don't love your argument btw! Best fun I've had all day!!!!)

Katie K said...

Wanting to make money does not negate artistic ability or output. None of us have known Shakespeare personally to either like or dislike him. Liking his work is a different matter. His language is exquisite.

Bells said...

I don't think any shakespearean scholar would disagree with you in theory. He was the popular playwright of his day. I guess they give him credit for insight into human nature, a great way with words etc which of coure could open up and whole other can of worms which you already alluded to!

would you apply the same thinking to say, Dickens? Another great popular writer, who if I'm getting you, you would probably say also shouldn't be as celebrated as he is?

I do plan to do the book meme, probably over the weekend or next time I'm lacking something to post about.

Bells said...

oh and I don't think Spielberg deserves nearly that much credit!

MrsFife said...

Um, I kind of have a sneaking admiration for Jerry Bruckheimer...because he produces some of my favourite shows, all the CSI series and other similar tales of physiological/anatomical mayhem.
Also, what is your opinion of Charles Dickens? He's one of our favourite writers.

Louiz said...

Didn't think you were telling me how to spend my money!

Oh and Shakespeare - the most amazing thing is that the vast majority of his amazing output is still around - but other than that he is on a level with Dickens, or the writers of EastEnders.. get it out fast, dramatic and hopefully entertaining because we're due on stage with it in 2 days!

(I see Bells has already commented on him - he was writing for deadlines and his work originally appears piecework in the weekly papers... same rationale as shakespeare above!)

Oh, and I don't like Dickins, but do love shakespeare....

And to my mind, nothing beats the Theban tragedies for

Louiz said...

whoops! Nothing beats them for drama tragedy and total emotion... not to mention all the smart words like hubris, epic scenes, and where do you think an Oepidus complex comes from ?:)

Five Ferns Fibreholic said...

I don't think that there is anything terribly wrong with being an enabler.I've seen a woman enable her friend out of $650 for a stash purchase. They are still friends.

I think that people went wild about the whole Shakespeare issue because he is a sacred icon from our past. We took him in High School and with some effort we got through. He was hard and we succeeded. He was a challenge and we conquered.

Is he a hack??? Is he an example of great literature???? Does it really matter??? After we leave the hallowed halls of learning, we are free to read only what we want.paxkozr

debsnm said...

I always thought of Shakespeare as more like Stephen King - huge output, great phraseology, and boy, could he tell a story! So what if he sucked up to royalty - anybody with any sense did just that, not only to get paid, but to stay alive. And let's face it, QEI was not the stable-est of monarchs. Of COURSE he'd say that a ruler should be single and celibate - look at her! He just confirmed her choices.
And I wasn't going to get sucked into this discussion - although, if Elizabeth WAS going to get married, Sir Walter Raleigh would have been the perfect match.

Roxie said...

But I LIKE Shakespeare. Oh. I also like "Pirates of the Carribean" and "Tremors" and Romance novels. I just like a well-told tale with some comic relief. Nothing too deep, thank you.

Alwen said...

Oooh! Tremors! Shiny! (Gotta love a movie that involves an elephant gun!)

debsnm said...

OH! BTW - the fist day of my Southwest History class in college (history major), my professor says "Billy the Kid was a punk and a petty thief and we will NOT be discussing him in this class." And we didn't. The connection is - just because everybody else things someone (or something) is wonderful doesn't mean we all have to feel that way.

Donna Lee said...

You're bound to upset someone when you poke holes into historical figures. Shakespeare is Shakespeare and you either like him or not. Does that change whether we like you, nope. I probably like a lot of things that other folks don't. Fruitcake, for example. I love fruitcake. Yep, the brown,lumpy stuff they sell at holiday time. I make a mean fruitcake and when I do, there is never a crumb left.

NeedleTart said...

OK,so we put on tuxedos to see Shakespeare. Is that really any different than putting on Jedi robes to see Star Wars? Wear whatever you like I just like the good plots, some laughs, and the way the words roll trippingly off the tongue.
I do agree that Willie is not the be all and end all of literatooor, but he spins a good yarn (must be one of us).
As for the stash thing, I got that you were defending people's right to spend their money any darn way they please. Yarn, books, fabric, whatever. It's their money.

Rachel said...

Yeah, maybe Shakespeare was a hack, but without him there wouldn't have been a whole line of Kenneth Branagh movies OR Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which would have been simply unacceptable.

Although Beowulf kicks Billy's ass any day, I agree with you on that.

Anonymous said...

Most of your list of preferred historic fiction was the subject of my English class my junior year in high school.

I slogged through Shakespeare (except Macbeth. I love Macbeth) and very much enjoyed everything else we read, particularly The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, Le Morte D'Arthur, and The Canterbury Tales.

There used to be a band in town called Baiowulf. I love puns, so I thought they were incredible, even though I never saw them and heard they were awful.

historicstitcher said...

OK, I'm going to resusrrect some history here. (Since the history discussion has travelled from my blog to yours...I think we might be sharing a brain!)

Why couldn't knitting have come back from the Middle East with the Crusaders? I know you've made the point that these men aren't going to take time out from fighting to sit and have a little tete-a-tete about sock-making and turning heels, but let's discuss the actual entourage.

1. Supply lines: The Crusaders went rampaging and pillaging long before they were able to build and sustain supply lines back to Europe. They essentially stripped the local area of resources as they travelled through. What's to say they didn't pick up a sock or two to replace threadbare woven ones? The assumption that the Crusaders themselves learned to knit and brought it back with themis pretty preposterous. However - what if they pillaged some nice knitted socks, and one (it only takes one!) brought back a sock-in-progress so maybe his dear wifey back home could figure out how to make these nice-fitting things he took from a local...

2. What about the entourage? The Crusaders were followed by a gigantic entourage and retinue. Washer-women, prostitutes, cooks, lovers, hangers-on, pages, knight-wanna-bes...there were hundreds of stragglers and followers parading around with the Crusaders. They were the ones largely responsible for finding food for the hungry rapists, er...fighters. They could very well have found knitting as well.

3. Pillaged women: Are you going to tell me that not one Crusader brought home a wife or slave from the Middle East? She would know. If the entire embroidery fad of Blackwork in England could be attributed to Katherine of Aragon, why couldn't knitting have been brought to Europe by one woman dragged home from the Crusades?

While I don't dispute the hypothesis that knitting could have taken the Eastern route, passing through Russia and spawning Orenburg lace on the way, I tend to favor the possibility that it could have travelled BOTH routes. The utilitarian knitting of shawls is a more northerly and easterly phenomenon, and reached as far west (and south) as Shetland shawls. However, there was simultaneous development of the more decorative knitting found in strnaded knitting that could very well have come from the southern route and travelled up the western edge of Europe and back to Russia.

Shall we continue?

historicstitcher said...

By the way - tag! Check my blog for details!