Honor roll: Drama books

Each of these Drama books has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:The Child Garden

The Child Garden

Geoff Ryman

London has flooded. Britain is tropical. And people photosynthesize.

In a semi-tropical London, surrounded by paddyfields, the people photosynthesize. The Consensus, a vast DNA unit, controls the country. Children are raised in Child Gardens and educated by virus. Viruses control their behaviour; nonconformism is treated by the Consensus. Information, culture, law and politics are now biological functions.

This is the story of Lucy, the immortal tumor, Joseph the Postman, whose mind is an information storehouse for others, and Milena, an incredible musician who has a secret, lost even to herself. She is resistant to viruses. It makes her alienated in an enclosing world. It will make her one of the most extraordinary women of her age. The secret is lost in memory. It is hidden somewhere—in the Child Garden.

Book:Headlong

Headlong: A Novel

Michael Frayn

An unlikely con man wagers wife, wealth, and sanity in pursuit of an elusive Old Master.

Invited to dinner by the boorish local landowner, Martin Clay, an easily distracted philosopher, and his art-historian wife are asked to assess three dusty paintings blocking the draught from the chimney. But hiding beneath the soot is nothing less-Martin believes-than a lost work by Bruegel. So begins a hilarious trail of lies and concealments, desperate schemes and soaring hopes as Martin, betting all that he owns and much that he doesn’t, embarks on a quest to prove his hunch, win his wife over, and separate the painting from its owner.

In Headlong, Michael Frayn, “the master of what is seriously funny” (Anthony Burgess), offers a procession of superbly realized characters, from the country squire gone to seed to his giddy, oversexed young wife. All are burdened by human…[more]

Book:Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Harold Bloom

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is the culmination of Harold Bloom’s life’s work in reading, writing about, and teaching Shakespeare. It is his passionate and convincing analysis of the way in which Shakespeare not merely represented human nature as we know it today, but actually created it: before Shakespeare, there was characterization; after Shakespeare, there was character, men and women with highly individual personalities—Hamlet, Falstaff, Iago, Cleopatra, Macbeth, Rosalind, and Lear, among them. In making his argument, Bloom leads us through a brilliant and comprehensive reading of every one of Shakespeare’s plays.

According to a New York Times report on Shakespeare last year, “more people are watching him, reading him, and studying him than ever before.” Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is a landmark contribution, a book that will be…[more]

Book:Alcestis

Alcestis

Ted Hughes, Euripides

In the years before his death at age sixty-eight in 1998, Hughes translated several classical works with great energy and ingenuity. His Tales from Ovid was called “one of the great works of our century” (Michael Hofmann, The Times, London), his Oresteia of Aeschylus is considered the difinitive version, and his Phèdre was acclaimed on stage in New York as well as London. Hughes’s version of Euripides’s Alcestis, the last of his translations, has the great brio of those works, and it is a powerful and moving conclusion to the great final phase of Hughes’s career.

Euripides was, with Aeschylus and Sophocles, one of the greatest of Greek dramatists. Alcestis tells the story of a king’s grief for his wife, Alcestis, who has given her young life so that he may live. As translated by Hughes, the story has a distinctly modern sensibility while retaining the spirit of antiquity. It is a profound meditation on human mortality.

Book:Pilgrim

Pilgrim: A Novel

Timothy Findley

“I have lived many times, Doctor Jung. Who knows, as Leda I might have been the mother of Helen—or, as Anne, the mother of Mary…. I was also crippled shepherd in thrall of Saint Teresa of Avila; an Irish stable boy and a maker of stained glass at Chartres…. I saw the first performance of Hamlet and the last performance of Moliere, the actor. I was a friend to Oscar Wilde and an enemy to Leonardo…. I am both male and female. I am ageless, and I have no access to death.”

On April 15, 1912—ironically the very date on which more than a thousand people lost their lives as the Titanic sank—a figure known only as Pilgrim tries to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree. When he is found five hours later, his heart miraculously begins beating again. This isn’t his first attempt to end his life, and it is decided that steps must be…[more]

Book:The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets

Helen Vendler

Helen Vendler, widely regarded as our most accomplished interpreter of poetry, here serves as an incomparable guide to some of the best-loved poems in the English language.

In detailed commentaries on Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, Vendler reveals previously unperceived imaginative and stylistic features of the poems, pointing out not only new levels of import in particular lines, but also the ways in which the four parts of each sonnet work together to enact emotion and create dynamic effect. The commentaries—presented alongside the original and modernized texts—offer fresh perspectives on the individual poems, and, taken together, provide a full picture of Shakespeare’s techniques as a working poet. With the help of Vendler’s acute eye, we gain an appreciation of “Shakespeare’s elated variety of invention, his ironic capacity, his astonishing refinement of technique, and, above all, the reach of his skeptical imaginative…[more]

Book:Chinese Opera

Chinese Opera: Images and Stories

Wang-Ngai Siu, Peter Lovrick

Chinese Opera looks at Chinese society through an exciting series of photographs of operatic performances from many regions of the country. The book introduces the reader to this unique theatrical form and tells the traditional stories that are its narrative foundation.

Siu Wang-Ngai’s extraordinary images, taken in existing light during performances, lovingly reveal the visual excitement of Chinese opera and point to the differences in costuming and presentation that distinguish each regional style and character type. Through Peter Lovrick’s engaging text, Chinese Opera provides a brief anecdotal history of the development of Chinese opera and introduces a language of theatrical convention entirely new to the Westerner. It also identifies the hallmarks of the dozen or so regional opera styles found in this collection. As well, the book arranges the stories in a rough chain of being, from…[more]

Book:Damned to Fame

Damned to Fame

James Knowlson

Damned to Fame is the brilliant and insightful portrait of Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett, the renowned yet reclusive master of twentieth-century literature. Professor James Knowlson, Beckett’s chosen biographer and a leading authority on Beckett, vividly recreates Beckett’s life from his birth in a rural suburb of Dublin in 1906 to his death in Paris in 1989, revealing the real man behind the literary giant. Scrupulously researched and filled with previously unknown information garnered from interviews with the author and his friends, family, and contemporaries, Knowlson’s unparalleled work is the definitive Beckett biography of our time.

Book:Bone Music

Bone Music

Alan Rodgers

A little over sixty years ago, Robert Johnson died of poison in a little town up off the bluff in Arkansas. In an hour, a little girl named Lisa will die of cancer. Such different deaths—but linked, horribly and inevitably, by the crime Robert Johnson committed in the hour that he died. That Crime was Judgment Day: Robert Johnson sang Judgment Day, the song to end the world, as he lay dying in that shack up off the Mississippi River bluff—and nothing anywhere in the world has been right since.

Book:The Parsley Parcel

The Parsley Parcel

Elizabeth Arnold

Freya is abandoned by her great-grandmother, with a promise to fulfil and a wish to grant. Life is hard at Emma Hemingway’s house, but when she rescues a magpie, she regains a part of her freedom. Freya learns she has a special gift and Emma softens, realizing spells only work if love is employed.

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