Never mind Hallowe’en: Christmas is the Original Haunted Holiday.

It’s that time of year again – a time of ghosts and goblins, of sudden chills and flickering candle flames at the stroke of midnight, of frights and haunts and things that go bump in the night. No, this isn’t a leftover post from Hallowe’en. For the Victorians, the spookiest holiday of the year was Christmas. Here’s British writer Jerome K. Jerome in 1891:

“There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas — something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails… Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters. For ghost stories to be told on any other evening than the evening of the twenty-fourth of December would be impossible in English society as at present regulated.”

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This Valentine’s Day, Use Your Words!

What truly says “I love you” to your Valentine? A fancy dinner out? Good luck getting a table, or avoiding romantic indigestion as you navigate the desperate crush of other romance seekers. A box of chocolates? Hardly original, and not exactly helpful with our New Year’s resolutions. Do diamonds speak louder than words? Nope – not even close:

          Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
          Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme…

sonnetsWhen it comes to expressing your feelings, use your words. Or… borrow someone else’s! For millennia poets have spilled out their hearts on papyrus, parchment and paper, and into the air itself. From Sappho to Shakespeare, Ovid to Neruda, Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Oliver, our shelves groan, sigh and sing with love’s burden, heavy as the heaviest heart, lighter than air. Here’s a list of just some of the books at your library packed with moving love poetry from all over the world, and all throughout the ages. Continue reading “This Valentine’s Day, Use Your Words!”

Bring Down the House

bring-down-the-houseHave you heard the latest about William Shakespeare? Oxford University Press recently credited Christopher Marlowe as co-author for Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3. NPR has an interesting interview with Gary Taylor, Florida State University professor and one of the general editors of The New Oxford Shakespeare, in which he details the process for determining authorship.

In an act of remarkable timing, you have three chances to catch a performance from an exciting new adaptation of Shakespeare’s (and Marlowe’s) Henry VI trilogy at The Seattle Public Library.  Actors will read an excerpt from Seattle Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production of Bring Down the House, a thunderous, all-female, two-part adaptation of the Henry VI trilogy. Each reading will be followed by a question and answer session. Continue reading “Bring Down the House”

Theater at the Library Presents – Edge of Our Bodies

edgePosted by Richard
Capitol Hill Library and the Washington Ensemble Theater are teaming up to present the one-woman show Edge of Our Bodies. Sunday April 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Capitol Hill meeting room. Here’s a bit about the show: “On a cold Winter night, a precocious and pregnant 16-year-old aspiring writer named Bernadette boards a train to New York City with only a notebook as a companion hoping to find a sense of meaning in an adult world she cannot escape… and to deliver some heavy news to her distant boyfriend. Rapp’s poetic and honest one-woman show takes us headfirst into the brutal realities of young adulthood and the challenging pull between the need to connect to others and the desire to disappear.”

Everything and the Kitchen Sink: Social Realism in post-war Britain

The rain falls hard on a humdrum town
This town has dragged you down
And everybody’s got to live their life
And God knows I’ve got to live mine…

Find The Smiths' "Louder than Bombs" in the Seattle Public Library catalog.So goes the opening verse of The Smiths‘ classic song, “William, It Was Really Nothing,” a brilliant pastiche of British post-war, kitchen sink dramas. The Manchester group’s lyricist and singer, Morrissey, was famously enamored of the genre and its proud Northern roots, even featuring one of its more colorful figures, Shelagh Delaney, on the cover of their double album, Louder Than Bombs.

The term “kitchen sink realism” was coined in the mid-fifties to describe the cultural trend in British painting, literature, and film toward bleak working class themes, often set in or by artists from the industrial north of England, and featuring domestic dramas with troubled working-class anti-heroes. Perhaps one of its most prototypical and well-known examples was Nottingham writer Allan Sillitoe’s novella, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, about a young delinquent, Colin, who has been sent to a “borstal” (the English equivalent of juvenile detention). Colin is a gifted runner, and the school authorities offer him early release if he can win a race against a prestigious public school. His skill brings an opportunity to boost the borstal’s image, and for him to escape its daily drudgery by being allowed to train outside its confines. But in a confounding final act, Colin defies the authorities and both cements and destroys his personal freedom. The theme of young, socially alienated protagonists straining against and yet trapped by the poverty and frustration of provincial life is central to the kitchen sink genre.

The kitchen sink writers also shared many common threads and were often conflated with a group of writers known as the “Angry Young Men,” whose work was exemplified by John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (1956), but also included the likes of Kingsley Amis (Lucky Jim, 1954), John Braine (Room at the Top, 1957), and Colin Wilson (The Outsider, 1956).

Find "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" in the Seattle Public Library catalog.Literary kitchen sink realism deeply influenced early sixties British film. Notable adaptations include Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar, John Braine’s Room at the Top, and Alan Sillitoes’ Sunday Night and Sunday Morning (starring a young Albert Finney). Television was impacted as well with series such as The Eastenders, and the long-lived Coronation Street, which began in 1963 and is still in production. And its influence has even extended to popular music such as, most obviously, The Smiths, but also other quintessentially English bands such as The Jam, Squeeze, and The Kinks.

Selected reading, viewing, and listening:

Books and Plays: