WHAT ARE YOU READING?
A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers
Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading Antony Sher’s Year of the Mad King: The Lear Diaries (Nick Hern Books, 2018). “This book brings together Sir Antony’s diaries as he prepared to play King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company. By the end, his immersion in the role is complete. Along the way, the reader is given a glimpse of the work necessary to become one of Shakespeare’s greatest characters. Even more remarkable is that, in parallel, Sher is keeping in his head other major parts he was playing, including Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The diaries are also deeply personal as Sher deals with the death of family members and coming to terms with his own artistic mortality. Wonderfully supported throughout by his husband and RSC artistic director, Greg Doran, this is a moving account of an intense period in a wonderful actor’s life.”
Lisa Hopkins, professor of English, Sheffield Hallam University, is reading Ciara Rawnsley and Robert White’s The New Fortune Theatre: That Vast Open Stage (University of Western Australia Publishing, 2018). “This is a history and celebration of UWA’s open-air semi-reconstruction of the Fortune Theatre of 1600. The book brings together essays old and new (including a comic account of how the building’s purpose was broken to the architect), with valuable reflections by those who have acted or directed in it. As is to be expected from UWA’s link to the Centre for the History of the Emotions, there is attention to the stage’s capacity for affecting the audience, and also an implicit plea for the value of such amenities in a philistine funding environment. Strongest of all, though, is the evocativeness of many of the essays: we hear the peacocks, and feel the Australian sun burning the feet of the valiant student actors.”
Randy Malamud, Regents’ professor of English, Georgia State University, is reading Carol J. Adams’ Burger (Bloomsbury, 2018). “This forms part of the quirky Object Lessons series, about the hidden lives of ordinary things, alongside books on Dust, Blanket, Hood and Questionnaire, for example (and for which I have been contracted to write Email). Best known for her groundbreaking The Sexual Politics of Meat, Adams would seem the least likely person to write about hamburgers with her philosophically lurid antipathy to carnivory. But if the point is to deconstruct this iconic all-American meal, then she is the woman for the job. Discussions of slaughter, grinders, BSE, the McLibel trial and the cultural misogyny that infuses meat will dampen your craving for macerated cow flesh. But after identifying the hamburger as ‘the unsustainable modernist solution to protein delivery’, she whets our appetites for a soy burger instead, or a pea-and-beet Beyond Burger, or a synthetic Impossible Burger which shows that ‘delicious meat doesn’t have to come from an animal’.”