Frost/Nixon at the Library.

image-of-richard-nixon-courtesy-of-dr-john2005For many of us who grew up in the early 1970s, Richard Nixon was almost a storybook figure, his iconic visage glowering from hundreds of political cartoons, his resignation speech one of our “where were you when” moments. (At Summer camp, eating supper in silence while listening to the radio, since you asked).

As years go by, his administration and persona continue to fascinate, and invite fresh views on the big screen ranging from the true life thriller All the President’s Men to Oliver Stone’s sweeping biopic Nixon, from Robert Altman’s intense psychological Secret Honor to the sweetly Continue reading “Frost/Nixon at the Library.”

Public Health

There probably aren’t many people who could say they “like” diseases, but they are interesting subjects for researchers and writers.  Especially interesting are accounts of how society copes with illness, now and in the past – and in what ways particular diseases were perceived by the society struggling with them.  Here are a few investigations of the culture-individual-illness matrix:

Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera by Sandra Hempel
This book, and Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, are about the very birth of epidemiology, and the extraordinary man responsible for the idea that disease had patterns, that understanding it had a geographic dimension, and that illness could be combated by simply removing a pump handle and ending access to tainted water.

The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald
This famous book has value on many levels — it is by and about a Seattle author and how she confronted the disease that still challenges medicine today.  Writing over half a century ago, MacDonald treats serious subjects with humor but offers very detailed descriptions of life in a tuberculosis sanatorium.  The isolation and shunning that people with TB suffered along with Continue reading “Public Health”

Ghost Singer as Author

Book cover of As I read a recent Seattle Times review of the traveling production, My Fair Lady, the name Marni Nixon “jumped out” at me. The former Seattlite was playing the non-singing role of Higgins’ mother. What a surprise, she’s still active, I thought. A long time admirer of hers, I wondered what would it be like to dub the singing for famous actresses and never be acknowledged? I then turned to Google and learned that she had been in Seattle in 2006 for signings and a concert related to her book, I Could Have Sung All Night. How did I miss that!

As co-author with Stephen Cole, she has written an engaging account of her childhood, her working relationships with composers and conductors like Bernstein and Stravinsky, her three marriages, and especially her dubbing, Continue reading “Ghost Singer as Author”

Who was Shakespeare?

image-of-shakespeares-head-in-text-courtesy-of-yelnocWhile the academic world is solidly behind William Shakespeare of Stratford, such notables as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Derek Jacobi, Walt Whitman and Orson Welles have questioned whether he could have written the works credited to him. Among those who suspect that Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of the plays and sonnets, the candidates who have been put forth as the real Shakespeare include Sir Frances Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, among others.
There are a number of Oxford titles, either to be praised or condemned, depending on one’s leanings; I suggest two titles Continue reading “Who was Shakespeare?”

Bard Bio

As a lifelong Shakespeare fan, I’ve known of the various debates about which of his plays came first, whether Shakespeare was indeed Shakespeare (and not, say, Francis Bacon), whether he loved his wife, how educated he was, and so on with the minutiae.  I admit I haven’t much cared, preferring to focus my attention on the sublimity of his plays and poetry instead.

shakespeare.jpgAlong comes Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson, a writer generally known for his travelogues.  What caught my attention most about this short, engaging book was Bryson’s ability to sum up all the threads of an argument and then not take sides.  There is so little actual information about Shakespeare’s life that it is tempting to speculate wildly about who he was, and many people have, but Bryson invites us to revel in not knowing.

Along the way you learn about everything from the political-religious conflicts of the day and their possible effect on Shakespeare’s career to the wild diet of the average Englishman (both noble and commoner), as well as Shakespeare’s likely education as a country boy and his unparalleled contributions to English literature and our language itself.

This book was so interesting I felt like watching at least a few of the Bard’s plays.