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September 27th, 2008

September Books 21) In the Land of Israel

21) In The Land Of Israel, by Amos Oz

I'd been putting off reading this since I work on enough conflicts professionally, and don't rush to fill my leisure time with more. It is, however, a very interesting account of attitudes in Israel in the winter of 1982, just after the first invasion of Lebanon; the leftish author mainly reports on right-wing voters who disagree with him, though he has a couple of short chapters with Palestinians in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

I must say that my main reaction, having read this en route from Switzerland to Belgium after giving a conference presentation on the Balkans and the Caucasus, is that actually the Israel / Palestine conflict is a lot less special than its protagonists like to think it is. Certainly a lot of the attitudes expressed by Oz's interlocutors could be found also among Ulster Loyalists, fairly mainstream Serbs, and among various sides in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and perhaps especially Russia.

September Books 22) Expiration Date

22) Expiration Date, by Tim Powers

I think this is one of the few Powers novels I hadn't yet read. I enjoyed it. Set in California at Halloween 1992, it features the ghost of Thomas Alva Edison being pursued by various unsavoury people and entities. Powers conveys a real sense of the place and time - lots of references to the Clinton / Bush election campaign, and gritty portrayals of the people and localities of the greater LA area. Great fun.
23) The Taming of the Shrew

Well, I knew there would be at least one of these: I really didn't like The Taming of the Shrew. The basic storyline is simply too unpleasant: Katherina, obviously a very unhappy person, is intimidated into submission by a bloke called Petruchio who appears out of nowhere and for no apparent reason decides to marry her. There is lots of beating of servants; how hilarious.

It's not totally awful. The suitors trying to court Katherina's sister Bianca are moderately funny, and the Katherina / Petruchio relationship, though generally very dodgy, is almost sweet in the penultimate scene. But it's not really enough to mask the general nastiness of the plot. I did wonder a bit to what extent the complex father-child relationships, and the difficulties of managing households in two different cities, were drawn from Shakespeare's own experience.

The Arkangel version is lifted a bit by Frances Barber as Katherina and especially Roger Allam, of whom I don't think I had previously heard, as Petruchio. But the rest I'm afraid tried to get by with comic accents and speech defects. My advice is to give this one a miss.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

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