Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cognition in the Globe: Attention and Memory in Shakespeare’s Theatre
by Evelyn B. Tribble
Palgrave MacMillian. New York, 2011. 200 pp.

Theatre practitioners accustomed to dramatic analysis of Shakespeare’s work – what does Macbeth want? how to stage the moving of Birnam Wood? – have a fascinating new viewpoint in Evelyn Tribble’s Cognition in the Globe, one of the more recent additions to Palgrave’s series Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance. In concerning herself with the question of how early theatre companies carried the mnemonic load associated with performing several new plays a month, Tribble has created a treatise that sheds light on the historic even as it provides new insights to those producing theatre today.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Destiny of the Republic
A Tale of Madness, Medicine and Murder of a President
by Candice Millard. Doubleday, 340 pages.

At once an engaging piece of Americana and an exploration of the frightening world of 19th century medicine, Candice Millard's re-telling of the assassination of President James Garfield explores the story from more than a few surprising angles. Others have chartered this course before (see Kenneth Ackerman's 2004's Dark Horse, discussed here) but Millard stakes her claim on the subject by framing her narrative around several characters whose place in the story has heretofore been as members of the supporting cast.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Out of Oz 
by Gregory Maguire
Harper Collins, 563 pages.

!!  This review contains spoilers  !!

Although one has to credit Gregory Maguire for his imagination, devotion and skill - his brains, heart and courage, as it were - it would be a tough job to recommend Out of Oz to anyone but the most devoted fans. The book is the final volume of a massive reworking of the Oz mythology dubbed The Wicked Years, a long, complicated saga about war, politics and love that have earned Maguire comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan and other creators of the sprawling fantasia. But Out of Oz, more than any of the three books that came before it, seems to strain under Maguire's literary efforts. Everything is a little too labored, especially the narrative, which is a meandering timeline of events that spans the years but leaves the characters themselves lost in its wake.