A weekly look over the shoul­ders of our scholar-re­view­ers

THE (Times Higher Education) - - BOOKS -

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’.”

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