Stage Kiss – Sarah Ruhl (2014)

stage_kiss

So I realize that reading a play and actually seeing a play in real-time can both be completely different experiences, and that is what I’m going on to rank this reading of Ruhl’s play – it might be much better seen live on stage.

However, I happened to read this particular play, and after having seen reviews describing it as “funny” and “playful”, I ended up the read feeling rather the opposite of those adjectives. I would also add “really confusing” to that list of descriptors as the plot – wow. Confusing isn’t even the start of that, to be honest.

Using the description on the back of the book:

Award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl brings her unique mix of lyricism, sparkling humor, and fierce intelligence to her new romantic comedy Stage Kiss. When estranged lovers He and She are thrown together as romantic leads in a long-forgotten 1930s melodrama, the line between off-stage and on-stage begins to blur. A “knockabout farce that channels Noël Coward and Michael Frayn” (Chicago Tribune), Stage Kiss is a thoughtful and clever examination of the difference between youthful lust and respectful love. Ruhl, one of America’s most frequently produced playwrights, proves that a kiss is not just a kiss in this whirlwind romantic comedy.

And so I was rather expecting something light and frothy, perhaps on the level of P. G. Wodehouse’s or E. F. Benson’s sense of humor… Nope. I was wrong with that expectation. This play, the “whirlwind romantic comedy” wasn’t. I can say that the plot looks at the different ways that love can be viewed and how it can be hard to determine what’s “real love” and what’s not.

Ruhl places two former lovers (now broken up) in a stage audition to play characters who fall in love with each other in the play for which they are auditioning. It’s set as a 1930’s drama and the narrative flashes back and forth between present time and then (but that’s not that important, really) and, indeed, I seemed to spend most of my time trying to sort out who was whom when.

As the play continues, the audience is asked to consider what is real and what is not – it’s quite philosophical in places. The two lead actors are called “He” and “She” which is fine as a literary device, but got rather confusing for me, especially when the speaker was described as “She”, “She playing as Ada”, “He” etc.

So – I really wasn’t a big fan of the actual play reading itself, but in the hours after I had more fully digested it, my thoughts did return to it to consider some points. I would not say that this play was a straight-forward narrative, but it is a plot that gave me some things to think about later – and I would say that that is one characteristic of a good read.

(I would still recommend seeing this on stage though.)

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Things on Cowboy’s Head – No. 82

Things on Cowboy's Head No. 82: Peanut butter cup candy.

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 82: Peanut butter cup candy.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (like Olympic-level). All of which helps with this ongoing project I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

Playing Catch-Up….

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So – time for a general catch-up with reading and life in general. Work continues at warp speed and so I’m still not quite back to full-tilt reading, but I’m reading when I can.

I’m in the middle of a fantastic read by Gerard Woodward (whose book August I loved and reviewed a while back). His publisher got in touch with me about his newer title, Vanishing, which is great and I am finding that I look forward to every moment that I can find to read that story. More in-depth review to come, but suffice to say, Woodward is a great author!

book450I wanted to read another classic (specifically by Dickens), so I picked his non-fiction travel writing about his first visit to America called (strangely enough) American Notes. Well, I’ve heard Dickens’ writing called a lot of things, but truth be told, this book is actually very very funny in parts and has frequently made me laugh out loud when I’m reading it at the gym. I had no idea that Dickens had this dry sly sense of humor, but he does and there’s plenty of it in this book. There are, I admit, a couple of chapters which are heavy-handed (typical Victorian) writing about the state of prisons in the U.S., prison reform, slavery and disability rights, but they’re not too long and he did have a point. (The prisons were dreadful at the time and Dickens was a big advocate for changing that – especially solitary confinement – and the justice system in general.) However, once he returns to the world of travel, the tone returns to very witty commentary about his journeys. (Honestly, if I was a betting person, I would bet that Bill Bryson has read this Dickens book at some point because they both take the same tone about traveling around. If you like Bryson, you’ll like this particular Dickens. Just don’t be put off by the prison reform bits. The rest of it is really pretty funny for the most part.) Anyway, longer review to follow, but this is a good travelogue of early American life. (WARNING: It’s not always complimentary towards America/Americans but it does have grains of truth to it.)

book451Did a quick read of the graphic novel bestseller called Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. Not one of my favorite reads as both of the two lead characters are hard to like, swear like sailors and have an extremely jaded approach at life. I know a lot of people really like this read of these two disaffected teenaged friends, but I rather wish that I could take that hour of reading time back to use on something else. But it’s good to know what people are talking about when they mention Ghost World now.

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When I haven’t been reading, we’ve caught a couple of really good movies. “This is Where I Leave You” is a movie adaptation of a novel of the same name by Jonathon Tropper (both good). (My book review is right here.) The plot focuses around a family of adult children and mother who all share close quarters for a week as was the final wish for their newly deceased father. It’s poignant and funny, and I think it’s one of the most honest representations of what life would probably be like if grown-up siblings were forced to spend a whole week together after years of having their own independent lives. Bitter-sweet and an overall really good movie.

movie2Another movie we viewed was an indie flick called “In a World”, fictional drama about the world of high-level voice-over artists vying for a gig doing the voice-over for the trailer of a huge blockbuster trailer about to be released. Again, grown-up siblings closely interacting, their lives not running according to plan (because whose does, really?) and some very sly humor. Not a comedy, but more of a poignant drama which was extremely satisfying and will be added to my life of top ten fav movies. (As will the Tropper movie above.)

Still watching the fantastic series, “The Wire” – wow. Talk about unpredictable plot twists and now we’re in Season Three, we’ve got a strong background in the characters and who they are etc., so it’s always a good watch. Good for when you want a serious hard-hitting drama and a nice replacement for House of Cards (although a very different take on the world).

And it’s been raining, raining, raining a lot for this semi-arid place we live in. It is the rainy season, that’s true, but this has been a chilly and wet start to summer for these parts. Next stop: Home Depot for ark-building materials. (Certainly not complaining about the rain though. We need the moisture in these here parts.)

www,photostock.am (Fotolia.com)

www,photostock.am (Fotolia.com)

Things on Cowboy’s Head – No. 81

Things on Cowboy's Head No. 81: Biro.

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 81: Biro.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot. All characteristics which help with this ongoing photographic project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

New TBR Shelf…

Picture3 So – summer is almost here (at least where I live) and with summer comes a new TBR list to drool over. These are all books that I already own and just surfaced when I reshuffled my bookshelves so I’m looking forward to this selection.

Usual guidelines apply: there is no “have-to” about any of this or keeping/straying from the list so this is a no-pressure environment here. Pull up a chair and let’s have a look at the titles:

  • Creating a Beautiful House – Alexandra Stoddard (NF and been on the pile for a while)
  • Remember the Alamo – Alison Battle and Allison Vale (UK take on US history, I think)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson (NF science writing/humor)
  • Quirk – Hannah Holmes (NF sociology – similar to Malcom Gladwell, perhaps)
  • I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot from School –Caroline Taggart (bite-sized reminders about things you may have daydreamed through class)
  • Servants: A Downstairs Look View of Twentieth-Century Britain – Lucy Letheridge (NF/social history/UK)
  • An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine (F)
  • Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing – Ted Conover (NF/autobiography/prison guard)
  • The Rotter’s Club – Jonathon Coe (F)
  • Nothing to Envy – Barbara Demick (NF/travel about North Korea)
  • The Entymologist – Mark Forsythe (NF about words)
  • Getting Stoned with the Savages: A Trip through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu – J. Maarten Troost (NF/travel/funny)
  • The Day the World Came to Stay: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland – Jim deFede (NF/history)
  • Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson (NF/travel)
  • Maphead – Ken Jennings (NF/Geography/history)
  • Everybody was So Young – Amanda Vaill (NF/history/Lost Generation)
  • We Should All be Feminists – Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (essays)
  • Rules of the Wild – Marciano (F/Africa/history)
  • Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome (F kids)
  • A Walk around the West Indies – Hunter Davies (NF/travel)

So happy reading ahead!

The Polysyllabic Spree – Nick Hornby (2004) and other thoughts

book451This is a short collection of some of Nick Hornby’s brilliant book review columns from The Believer magazine, these ones from 2003 and 2004. Well, after reading these (and laughing out loud at the gym several times), Hornby has now made it on to my evergreen Literary Dinner Party Guest List.

If you’ve only read Hornby’s fiction (Like a Boy, High Fidelity et al.), then get ye to a bookshop and buy any of his volumes of his book review columns. His fiction can be a bit patchy, but his columns are little nuggets of gold all tucked into each two and half page entry of his book. I have to say (and I don’t say this very often, mind you) that I thoroughly enjoyed every single page of this collection.

Hornby looks at books in exactly the same way as I (and probably as other voracious booklovers do comme ça) and so this read was like sitting down for a cuppa tea or coffee with a friend and then just nattering away about things. His columns always start with a list of “Books Bought” and “Books Read”, each column varying from month to month (as they do for many of us), and he’s upfront about his book-buying (and book-receiving) habits and why his “Books Read” list rarely matches his “Books Bought” selections. (Hmm. Nope. Never happens to me. No sirree bob.)

In one of the columns, I came across this sentence:

“All the books we own, read and unread, are the fullest expression of self that we have at our disposal…”

and then this one (actually taken from one of his other collections but along the same lines: there are sometimes:

“…unusual attempts at reinvention that periodically seize one in a bookshop…”

For some reason, I was so struck by this thought as it really resonated with me. It’s true that with some titles I purchase or bring home from the library, I am saying to myself “I’m really going to read this time,” or “I should really read this title – it’s so *important* to be well read,” or perhaps something along the lines of “I’ve always meant to read this,” or “Ooh goody. I’ve been looking for this…” and then the new acquisition gets home and is promptly put on a more inaccessible bookshelf for that “one day…”

(And here, I’m not berating myself (or anyone else) about this whole “not reading what you’ve bought” thing. (That’s part of the fun of being a reader, don’t you think?) It’s more of an observation, and I think it’s pretty funny to contemplate. I mean who hasn’t done this with at least one book that’s been brought into the house at some time?)

Thinking about it, I’m not sure what the impetus for these admittedly far-reached reading dreams may be – perhaps I read about it on a blog somewhere or via a book review, perhaps it was bought up in casual conversation with a booky friend or maybe it was just drudged up from the long-ago past and I just happened to be reminded of the title as I browsed one of the shelves. It is as others have said many times (and this is an incredibly vague paraphrase here), “…for where is a heart so weak as in a bookstore [or other booky place]”…

So, I decided to take a look along my own particular bookshelves to see if I had an inordinate number of Titles of Shame – sad volumes who, through no fault of their own, have remained untouched and unmoved off their shelf, watching other books be chosen (or not as the case may be). Which regrettable titles (although obviously thought worthy at the time of purchase) would be found during this observation?

(…Time passes…)

passing_timeIt wasn’t too bad. I’m pretty good at getting rid of books that aren’t of interest any more so I don’t have that many Failed Dream titles hanging around. I did have two books about foreign languages, one for French and one for Spanish, but I still hold out a fragile hope for those two titles. I even think I have one for Latin, but I’ve already tried that and crossed it off the list. (Oh my god. The declensions, the conjugations, the tenses!)

(Oh, and Superhero suggested that I add all the cookbooks to the Failed Dream title group as well, but I pretended not to hear that.)

I think if I had looked closely at my infinite TBR list(s) that they would more closely mirror my intended self. They are pretty wide-ranging in scope and, I would have to admit, even a touch optimistic in places, but I say “aim high.” The old “Ad astra per aspra,” right?

For myself, I’m going to keep the hopeful fire of Hopeful Dream Titles burning. There’s nothin’ wrong with that.

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Things on Cowboy’s Head – No. 80

Things on Cowboy's Head No. 80: Southwest Airlines peanuts.

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 80: Southwest Airlines peanuts.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (like Olympic-level). All of which helps with this ongoing project I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

I’d like a large serving of typos please…

Superhero and I are big believers in giving our consumer dollars to small local businesses when possible and so we went out to a new restaurant in town. As I scanned the menu, I happened to notice this:

Menu1

And this:

menu2

And this:

menu3

And this popped up:

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With this one being my favorite:

menu5

I’m not going to name names, but this was a particularly high achieving menu writer, I think.