Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reading Dewey's Books _ mini-challenge

Jodie at and I teamed up for this challenge.

Here's Jodie, talking about the play, The Barber of Seville, which she chose because it had been several years since she read a play:

1): You chose to read a play, and it was the Barber of Seville
Can you talk a little bit about why you chose that particular form, and why that play?

Well I decided to read something from the 18th century to tie in with maree’s book choice. When I started investigating Restoration theatre it seemed that most of the plays had been discarded by the modern dramatic community. Even Voltaire’s plays got a rough ride and most of the plays from that period were seen as very much of the period, with little relevance or interest for a modern audience. Beaumarchais Figaro trilogy was one of the few exceptions and Beaumarchais himself sounded like an intriguing person so I started in on ‘The Barber of Seville’.

2): I find in my experience that I prefer to see dramatic works performed. How did it differ, reading a play, to watching one being acted out? Did you get a good sense of the storyline? The action? The comedy/drama?

I haven’t read a play since I was in college (that’s sort of 16-18 in the UK) and I’d forgotten how much fun it is. Plays are quick to read, you can dash through them without giving the text all the dramatic inflections and pauses it would have on stage, but you can still get a good sense of the plot and the comedy. I also like that you can spend as much time exploring areas of the text, whereas with plays on the stage your thoughts go with the action.

I think plays involving sword fights don’t do so well with me when I’m reading plays instead of seeing them because I’m used to reading highly described fight scenes in novels. Comedy can date but one good comic line can conjure a vivid moment while stage directions do nothing for me.

3): Would you read more plays from the same era, or seek out dramatisations of them?

All the way through the Barber of Seville I’d catch myself hearing the inflections a modern cast would give to the words so I’d love to see a drammatisation of this play. The forward says the play is often dramatically altered for a modern audience with scenes and poems slashed right out. I’m also looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. I might look out some of the other plays that have continued to be thought well of, but I’m not sure about those that have become historical curiosities.

4): Can you give us a run down of the plot of the play?

It’s a simple comic plot. Count Almaviva has fallen in love with a girl named Rosine but her guardian Barthollo hopes to marry her so he whisks her away to Seville and hides from the world. The Count tracks them down and tries to work out how to win Rosine. While doing so he encounters his old servant Figarro, newly a barber in Seville. They hatch plan to save Rosine from a forced marriage, and this plan involves false names, play acting and trickery. In the end Barthollo is confounded and the Count and Rosine marry thanks to Figarro’s endeavours.

5): And finally, did you enjoy it?

I did enjoy it. I was rooting for the Count and Rosine, just like the author wants. Figaro is a fun trickster character, although his schemes are not the most elaborate I’ve ever read.

And here are mine:

The book I tackled for this challenge, was Travels Through France & Italy, by Tobias Smollett, a collection of letters by Smollett from the 18th century. Smollett, a doctor, took his family touring after the death of their teenaged daughter, Elizabeth.

1): You chose to read some non-fiction, a book of letters called Travels through France and Italy. Can you talk a little bit about why you chose that particular non-fiction, and why that book?

I chose non-fiction, because I don't read a lot of it, and I chose this book, honestly, because it's been sititng on my shelves for a few years. It's all letters, which is a style I almost never read, so it fit the challenge parameters' pretty well.

2): What was the last non-fiction book you read before Travels through France and Italy and when did you read it? Why is non-fiction something you don’t read much of?

Um ... it was Up Till Now, William Shatner's autobiography. I don't know why I don't read more non-fiction. I don't go out of my way not to read it, it's just that there are so many novels in my way!

3): I hear that the author finds fault with quite a lot of things. Did you find the author very cynical and if so was his cynicism amusing, distracting, powerful…?

From my perspective, he complained about eeeeeeeeverything! Honestly, I only made it to his eighth letter before I had to give it up. It was depressing to read, and as I told you in one email, it made me want to go out and eat rocks.
I actually found him quite tedious to read. I also would have liked to know who he was writing to, but that's not mentioned anywhere in the letters nor in the introduction, and there's no appendices, or notes, which I think would have helped my understanding, if not my enjoyment.

4): Have you visited any of the places mentioned in the book? Based on the descriptions the author gave do you think you would have preferred to visit any of them in the 18th century?

I've never travelled far from home, although I would love to visit France and Italy one day, which is another reason I chose this book. However, based on the letters I did read, I'd much rather visit them now, than then.

5): What other non-fiction books are on your TBR list?

I had to check, but I have Fernleaf Cairo, by Alex Hedley, about the experience of New Zealand soldiers in Egypt in World War II, and a trilogy of books by H V Morton, which were given to me by an old priest many years ago, who was a friend of my father's. I've kept them for sentimental reasons, and I'm trying to read more of my own books this year, so they've gone on that list. They are In the Steps of the Master, In the Steps of St Paul and Through the Lands of the Bible.

6.) Did you enjoy this book and has it made you want to read more non-fiction?

I can't say I enjoyed the book. I didn't even finish the book! But I always want to read more non-fiction. I find the world fascinating. :)


Ana S. said...

Maree, I fixed the Mr Linky and added yours. Sorry about that!

Your reaction to this book reminds me of mine to Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. The man sure knew how to complain :P

Jodie said...

Hurray both posts are up now - it was great working with you on this, hope it encouraged you to try something different again!