Currently Reading: 5th May 2015

A short and sweet one from me for the moment and in case the title didn’t give the game away this is a ‘Currently Reading’ blog post. Because for all I plan to do Friday Reads videos/blogs, Fridays end up being inexplicably busy most weeks. No, I don’t know why, but let’s just roll with it and do a ‘Currently Reading’ instead.

Number one on the list is George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what this is about given the proliferation of its extremely successful TV adaptation but a quick summary because it helps me to practice summarising the plot of rather complex books. Game of Thrones is the first-book in A Song of Ice and Fire series, what I believe is considered a low fantasy series which deals with the various Houses of Westeros, all vying for the Iron Throne. Sprawling, complex, strangely addicting, Game of Thrones has the quasi-historical medieval vibe that fantasy books enjoy, meaning you’re almost convinced this could just be historical fact. Were it not for the dragons.

I’m about one third of the way through and I’m enjoying it so far. I appreciate the short chapters – it means I can definitely justify saying ‘I’ll just read a chapter or two before I go to sleep’… cut to 2 hours later and I’m still reading. I hate using the phrase ‘page turner’ but it really does fit the description, it is addicting. The one difficult I’m having is that I’ve seen Season 1 of the TV show so… I’ve basically already “read” this book. Nothing is particularly surprising me, a lot of the dialogue is pleasingly similar, there are a few more interesting characterisation quirks that are missing from the TV series but, overall, it all feels strangely familiar. The last time I attempted to read this it was on my Kindle and I got halfway through before abandoning it so… here’s to hoping that reading an actual physical copy will get me past that halfway sticking point.

Number two on the list is William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Yes, yes, Emma is banging on about that play again. In my defence… my dissertation is going to focus on it so… it’s practically required of me to bang on about it over and over.

After an extremely useful initial meeting with my supervisor, she suggested perhaps taking the approach of using one play with which to examine a range of bodies. I’m still trying to tease out what my focus(es) or main thread of argument will be so to the play itself I turn! I also have a couple of adaptations to watch – that’s the one thing that concerns me about writing solely on Coriolanus. Yes I have seen the Donmar production enough to commit it to memory (oh boy have I), yes there is a modernised film adaptation directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes that looks like it does interesting things with its modernisation, yes there is the expected 80s BBC version which… I’m just hoping isn’t as dry as their Love’s Labours Lost was. But, aside from that, there aren’t that many adaptations readily available… the Globe did a production… oh, but before they got into the habit of recording their shows to put online and on DVD. I think it may be a case of reading peoples’ accounts of stage adaptations of it and using those in lieu of anything more substantial.

But, in any case, I will be re-reading Coriolanus extensively over the summer. The thing striking me at the moment on this re-read? Virgilia’s alarmingly perfunctory responses that entirely marginalise her as a character. She literally cannot get a word in edgeways over Volumnia’s commanding presence. That might be an avenue worth exploring in the manner of Pascale Aebischer’s comment on examining gaps or silences in a text.

As mentioned above, I need to read some critical things on the body whilst trying to work out what my line of argument will be. So… there’s a steadily forming stack that in all likelihood barely touches the surface. But I am (very slowly) working my way through them in short bursts of studying, trying to be concious of really unpacking what each critic is saying and focusing my efforts on deciding if I actually agree with them. I have an unfortunate tendency to presume that I have nothing new to say about Shakespeare because hundreds of more qualified academics before me have already said it all, or said it better. This is a habit I need to break. I’ve been trying this year not to fall back onto relying on critical opinion rather than positioning my work in dialogue with critics so I’m only tentatively digesting all this critical opinion. The main aim here is for me not to read so much that it entirely drowns out my prior, gut instinct opinions on Coriolanus. So wish me luck with that… because goodness knows I’ll probably need it when I’m done with this stack!

And that is what I’m currently reading. The plans for most of May, in lieu of a TBR, are to finish Game of Thrones and potentially start A Clash of Kings. Hopefully I will also get around to picking up Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd because I am so eager to see the recently released film starring Carey Mulligan but time will tell whether I give in and watch the film first! Other than these rather substantial books, Coriolanus and writing about said Shakespeare play will be on my desk for most of the month. And for the majority of summer. In all seriousness, and without a hint of sarcasm to be found, I couldn’t be more thrilled by the prospect.

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