It’s been a while since I did one of these posts about book related news items that I missed at the time and you may have missed also.
Since September is back to school/college time it seems the right moment to talk about a few programmes and courses offered by some of our educational institutions.
Open University: My Shakespeare
One thing I have certainly missed hearing about is a Sky Arts television documentary series called My Shakespeare in which leading actors My Shakespeare present the stories of, and the stories behind, some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. In this collaboration with the Open University, Joseph Fiennes talks about Romeo and Juliet for example, while Morgan Freeman explores The Taming of the Shrew. I don’t have a Sky subscription so will not get to see any of these unfortunately but if you do have access, you can read more about the programme via the Shakespeare pages on the Open University website.
Open University: Secret World of Books
Monsieur BookerTalk stumbled across a late night BBC4 programme in which Simon Russell Beale read extracts from Hamlet. His rendition of “to be or not to be…” was apparently the best that my esteemed partner has ever heard (high praise from one who until now had considered Richard Burton’s recording as the bees knees.) It rang a vague bell and then I remembered an email from the Open University announcing this new series together with a free App. I had tried downloading the App but the remote WIFI connection was too slow so I gave up and then promptly forgot about the whole series.
It’s a series of six programmes which revisit original texts, manuscripts, diaries and correspondence of some classic works of fiction including Frankenstein, Great Expectations and Mrs Dalloway. Kudos to the BBC for not only including something from my home country but choosing a text that isn’t as mainstream, The Mabinogian. For those of you who are not from Wales this is a classic work of literature which consists of 11 folk tales and legends.
If you can’t get to watch the programmes in real time, they should be available on the iPlayer. There is more info about the series on the Open University page – it also gives you the option to download a free App for your mobile device and some e versions of the texts.
I’ve seen a number of comments that the App is slow to download – I just had another go and didn’t encounter any problems.
Coursera: Comic and graphic novels
This genre (or is a sub genre?) isn’t something that particularly appeals to me but they do have a huge and enthusiastic fan following. So if these kinds of literary works light your fire, you might want to sign up of a free Coursera module which discusses whether they can be considered as literary art. It’s about to start and will last for seven weeks. To register go to https://www.coursera.org/course/comics.
Hope you find something you enjoy here. Have any of you come across other interesting courses offered by universities or academic groups? If so, did you register or follow them and what did you think about them?
I’m taking a short break away from reading the Man Booker prize winners, partly so I can explore some of the book recommendations I’ve had from fellow bloggers. But I also need to catch up with reading for my children’s literature course with the Open University which starts in September.
The two non-Booker books I’m currently reading, could not be more different.
Elizabeth Taylor: A Wreath of Roses
I had never heard of Elizabeth Taylor until recently but there seems to be a growing swell of people who rate her very highly. And so I bought, at random, A Wreath of Roses which turns out to rated as one of her best.
The early chapters didn’t sparkle very much for me but I sense a change and the emergence of a psychologically darker tone. It’s a story about three women who were very close for several years and spent many idyllic summers together in the country. But as the novel begins and they meet once again for their holiday, each of them is conscious of how much their lives have changed.
The once young and carefree Liz is struggling with her new role as a mother and vicar’s wife. Frances, the eldest of the trio, having swapped her life as teacher and governess to become a successful painter in later life, now finds her new work taking on a darker, more disturbing tone. Such changes leave the central character Camilla feeling estranged and disenchanted with the direction her own life has taken. The handsome man she meets by accident at the train station suggests an escape ..but Richard Elton seems to have an all too different agenda.
That was the point at which I decided it was worth reading further. I’d enjoyed some of the descriptive passages thanks to Taylor’s very painterly but the characters hadn’t really come to life so I didn’t particularly care what they thought or felt. It wasn’t until the narrative switched to Richard’s point of view and glimpses of his disturbed personality, were revealed that the book took on a new dimension. Let’s hope it keeps going in that direction.
R L Stevenson: Treasure Island
I first read this more than 40 years ago and yet I can still remember that feeling of excitement as the story of adventure unfolded. Long John Silver is one of those unforgettable characters from fiction of course but I remember too some of the turning point episodes – of Jim crouched in the apple barrel overhearing Silver plotting the mutiny. Reading it now, it doesn’t seem to have lost any of its freshness -the story still feels like it zips along at a cracking pace and even though I know the ending, the child in me can’t help but hold my breath just in case Jim gets caught in the barrel or he loses the fight up on the mast and plunges to his death. I hope that as the children’s literature course progresses that I don’t get so bogged down in the analysis that the magic fades……