Perhaps some of this will be of interest to others....
Football season in Nebraska is something which MUST be experienced to be understood. Okay, I’ve never lived anyplace where the local football team (at least while I was there) was a particularly “dominant force of nature,” (Indiana going to the Rose Bowl in 1968 [while I was in graduate school] was a fluke, and, besides, I was too busy with the ITC and Brockett courses to notice, anyway) Now, I was fairly heavily involved with the football team while I was in high school, but a life with a family and working in theatre education didn’t allow a great deal of time to make football a priority in my life. In any event, I’ve never experienced anything quite like football in Nebraska.
Football (more than any other sport) seems to be a dominant concern here for much of the year. Things DO slack off a bit early right after New Year’s Day, but only for a short time. It seems as though “Husker” football is one of the major sources of conversation for most of the year. Now, Nebraska has had a history of fair success in football over the years and, as is true in many places, the locals are proud of that, so it’s not too much of a surprise that there is some discussion of prospects for next year, etc., during the “off” season. I confess that I am consistently amazed, however, at the almost complete domination of football in sports news throughout the year. One is almost forced to accept the notion that “Husker” (the commonly used nick name of the “Cornhuskers,” the name of the teams of the University of Nebraska [Lincoln], the major university of the “Cornhusker state) is merely an alternate spelling of Jehovah, Allah, or Yahweh.
I confess that I have frequently encountered stores in malls, etc., which sell sports fan apparel having some items featuring the local college team, but here I find complete stores selling ONLY “Husker” stuff and at least a limited selection is to be found in many other stores (grocery stores, drug stores, big box stores, you name it). And, even this “limited” selection often includes tailgating tents, chairs, stools, coolers, drinking cups, and other stuff in addition to tee shirts, jackets, hats, and the like. It’s truly amazing!
I suppose that this may have become commonplace, so I could find it across the country (?), but it’s certainly new to me and I find it fascinating. Somehow, the newspaper story about it being only 200 days to the kickoff for next year’s football season is one I look forward to with some amusement. But, enough about that…
I’ve been doing some reading recently. There is nothing unusual about that; I read a lot. The other day, however, I was given a copy of srsly Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Courtney Carbone. It’s a hoot! It’s one of the OMG Shakespeare series published by Random House. The complete series (to date) consists of Macbeth #killingit, by the same authors, and YOLO Juliet and A Midsummer Night #nofilter by William Shakespeare and Brett Wright. If you haven’t seen these (or, perhaps, even heard of them); they are books which give “some of the bard’s greatest plays the 21st-century textspeak treatment.”
That means, of course, that the plays are presented using text message abbreviations and emoticons as if the lines were being sent via cell phone. There ARE drastic cuts, of course, but the resulting text does manage to capture the essence of the story and is VERY funny. Of course, I would not suggest that this is a serious substitute for reading the original Hamlet, but (at least for “Hamlet nuts” like me) it’s quite a lot of fun.
I haven’t read the other “works” in the series (and I doubt that I would seriously consider purchasing them) as the gag does get a bit tired by the end, but I think it likely that some people would enjoy them. I think that if one of the plays available is a special favorite of yours that you might well want to get a copy. They aren’t expensive and may be available from your library. Shakespeare is something which people should have fun with….
I also have just finished the new Dan Brown written “Robert Langdon” series book, Origin. I confess that I have enjoyed these books and the movies I have seen of several of them. Then again, I rather like “thriller fiction.” My understanding, from some stuff I have read in the paper, is that the “critics” don’t think any more of this book than they have the others. I can’t say that I’m surprised. “Critics” seem to think that anything which can be seen, heard, read, etc., and enjoyed by the general public without the intervention of “experts” can not possibly be worthwhile. After all, if we just let people judge “art” on their own, we (the “critics”) wouldn’t have jobs!
Personally, I’m not sure how much I care about some self-styled “expert” telling me what I am SUPPOSED to like. I think I can make up my own mind. Sure, I’ve read a lot of criticism over the years, especially criticism of drama. I confess that I may have even acquired a greater appreciation of some plays through the advice and opinion of experts. But, mostly, my opinion as to whether I LIKE a work (be it a play, a novel, or a work of fine art) hasn’t changed much. I LIKE The Glass Menagerie and really can’t work up much enthusiasm for Streetcar Named Desire. I think I can appreciate that Streetcar is truly a classic of the American theatre (as is Menagerie) but I just find it hard to get excited by an unpleasant story about a bunch of (mostly) unpleasant people in unhappy circumstances. I think I can figure out what are most of the important ideas presented and what happens to the characters. I just find it hard to really care a great deal. A “Critic” is unlikely to change that no matter how much he/she goes on about the “poetic nature of the prose,” the “sensitivity of the character portrayal, or whatever claptrap she/he wants to come up with.
Are the Robert Langdon books great works of literature? Probably not, although they are, for the most part, an enjoyable read, at least for me. Apparently for a lot of other people, too, as they have been “best-sellers.” Of course, being a “best-seller” seems to automatically doom a lot of things, books especially. After all, the fact that J.K. Rowling had multiple of the Harry Potter books on the “Best Seller List” at the same time made the “critics” decide that they had to create a whole new “Children’s Best Seller” list because these KID’S books were keeping “serious” literature from it’s rightful place on the list.
Do I think the Harry Potter books are “great” literature? I’m not sure, but I have found them worthwhile for multiple readings and I understand that there are a variety of legitimate college courses (Yes, at REAL universities) being offered for studying at reputable universities and I KNOW that the books were popular enough with ADULTS that the paperback edition was published (in Britain) with both a “children’s” and an “adult” cover because many adults (who were reading them) were embarrassed to be seen reading a copy with the “kid’s cover.
Personally, I tend to choose to read whatever attracts my attention. Often that means reading works by authors whose works I have previously enjoyed. And, I’m pretty eclectic in my taste. I enjoy some mysteries, some science fiction, some “thriller” fiction, some biography, and most of what I can find about Shakespeare or about the Salem Witch Hunt experience (these last tend to be a good deal more focused on “scholarly” stuff).
Are my tastes exclusively towards that sort of thing which the “critics” call “good” literature? Not a chance, although I have, and do, read some of that. I LIKE A GOOD READ! If I can get lost in a story for a while, that’s a GOOD thing! By the way, in addition to being the Shakespeare “nut” which my former students are well aware of, I’m also a bit of a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels. Conan Doyle’s writings, like a good many other popular works, ARE a bit formulaic and even I get a little annoyed every so often about how hard he seems to be working to make Holmes seem brilliant when the evidence is pretty suggestive at least as to the general nature of what’s going on. But, for the most part, the stories are a pleasant way to spend an hour, or two, being diverted and taken back to a time when as Vincent Starrett wrote in his poem,
Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game's afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears--
Only those things the heart believes are true.
A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
I’ve never really wanted to give others personal advice (especially when I haven’t been asked for it) but, if I were to do so, I would say DO read. And read whatever you like. You just might find that what the “critics” say doesn’t really matter. After all, YOU are the expert on what you like when you are reading for pleasure! You might join me in wandering about London about 1895…