Quite a bit's happened since my last update. That's partly due to my own truancy and partly due to the fact that a lot of stuff has happened recently, including, but not limited to, a performance of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing at the Guthrie in Minneapolis and Garrison Freakin' (not his real middle name) Keillor just a couple of days ago. But until I can get to the really fun stuff, I'd tend to think a handful of general updates are in order.
Classes are going pretty well, all things considered. We had a paper due in Contemporary Literature a handful of days ago, with a pretty quick turnaround. Thesis-on-Friday-final-draft-on-Wednesday kind of deal. A little faster than I've grown accustomed to, but not a big deal. William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, by comparison, gave me several more headaches than my paper did. It's a... difficult book. Faulkner - a very modernist, very stream-of-consciousness, Southern Gothic writer - was never one of my dad's favorite authors, and I think I've inherited that alongside his English-major-ness. I didn't dislike it, per se, but I found it much more interesting to talk about than to actually read.
I'm modestly terrified about the incoming exam in my honors class, The Ancient World. All I remember us talking about is about twelve million different kings and the "fall" and "rise" dates for about eleventy bajillion different kingdoms, and I don't know how this will exactly be examinated upon other than something requiring half a tree worth of index cards to study for. We'll see.
Creative Writing is much less nerve-wracking. We had a poet, Jill Alexander Essbaum, come by class Monday - yeah, that too, so much stuff has been happening! - after giving a poetry reading Sunday evening. She pulled up a twenty-seven page Word document of her process for writing a sonnet. Watching the disparate elements of the poem slowly drag themselves together into a sonnet over twenty-odd pages was really impressive. My own recent experiences with writing poetry for said Creative Writing class have been much less so. What can I say?—prose is much more my medium. On the other hand, poetry means Keats, and I love me some John Keats.
But Shakespeare's been really cool. We just finished reading Much Ado, probably because the Guthrie is currently showing a production of it, but probably also because it's one of Shakespeare's most-beloved comedies. I really liked the play, enjoyed Shakespeare's brilliant toying with gender roles and politics — we discussed "Shakespeare as a subversive vs. Shakespeare as a conservative" in class, and I firmly believe he was the former — and while it wasn't my favorite of his, I really did like it.
Can't say that about the Guthrie's production.
Disclaimer: when it comes to staged Shakespeare, I am a very grumpy old man. I like sets sparse, costumes period, changes minimal and faith to the original text. Seriously — Shakespeare has been around for over 400 years now, and nobody in the intervening centuries has been able to improve his work. It's extremely unlikely that we'll be able to make it any better. "Much Ado, but with middle-aged actors, bust-a-gut-funny, and set in the twenties" might sound like a fabulous combination to a marketing crew, but I didn't really enjoy it.
Much Ado really isn't as funny as people would like it to be. Many of Shakespeare's comedies have a very whiplashy sense of humor and discomfort, and the Guthrie's production seemed more than contented with rearranging scenes when its sense of comedy didn't fit with Shakespeare's text. And by comedy, I mean 'catering to the lowest common denominator.' Because it did, it really did. Yes, Dogberry has a silly name, but the text provides no reason for him to be literally barking or responding to orders of "fetch!". What.
Again, I'm a grumpy old man. I've been told that the American Players' Theatre's productions cater much more to the hyper-traditional crowd than the Guthrie's, who often take spins on things. And, to give them a fair break, most people in my class liked the play and agreed with my characterization of myself as an unsatisfiable, grumpy old man.
I'll talk about Garrison Keillor on Sunday. See you then.