A fig for your loyalty

Iago. Meanness, villainy, devilry…spite. His villainy inflamed by changing motives, Iago plays his spitefulness for sport.

Othello · William Shakespeare · 1603
Norton, 2008 · 82 pages, hardcover

William Shakespeare based Othello on a work by the Italian writer Cinthio. In the original Iago seeks retribution for his wife’s disloyalty, and it becomes a drama driven by vengeance. In Shakespeare’s version this motive is diluted: the affair between Iago’s wife, Emilia, and Othello is only a supposition (Iago admits to as much and Emilia makes light of the rumor). It’s no more than barracks banter and is hardly alluded to in the play.

Iago’s evilness is more terrifying and Othello a more difficult work for this revision. Othello isn’t a drama about jealousy or vengeance anymore; it’s a drama about manipulation and the fortitude of  rumors and lies. Continue reading

It’s like Superman coming out of a phone booth!

For all its hurt, Kavalier & Clay is an optimistic book. Chabon’s dark horses show us that a superhero is a very human thing.

Chabon, Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay · Michael Chabon · 2000
Random House, 2012 · 704 pages, paperback

Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a novel about the creation of one’s own life, the constant molding, assessing and reassessing in pursuit of some very individual version of the American Dream.

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No need to browse: four (five) writers on auto-buy

Two minutes, $25-$30, one hardcover book and a thrilled heart overflowing with impatience and happiness. What’s the book about? Damned if I know; I don’t even know what the title is if I’m to be completely honest.

Some authors are just that good, and you’ll read anything they write.

I winnowed my own list of auto-buy authors to include living writers only lest it become merely another list of favorites (though I may have cheated a little with numbers 3 and 4).

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Naguib Mahfouz, Autumn Quail

Cairo is burning.

Autumn Quail promises to be a novel of Egypt’s entropy as independence and fledgling self-governance struggle to reconcile the past with the future. It shows the fall from power and the post-revolution purge of government ministers and those who are connected with them.

Autumn Quail reveals the honesty that, sometimes, underlies corruption. It also reveals an optimism for the coexistence of old and new ideals. It is Mahfouz writing from the perspective of Egypt’s old regime – the constitutional monarchy and the liberalism of the then-dominant Wafd political party – as the 1952 revolution unfolds.

Mahfouz has done this more thoroughly in many of his other writings, and Autumn Quail is one of his weaker novels. Somewhere between short story and novel, Autumn Quail, for the purpose Mahfouz gave it, should have been a much shorter work.

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