Friday, October 08, 2004

Never out of print

It is surprising to read that the Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare has never been out of print (according to a review of books by and about Charles and Mary Lamb in the 10/31/04 NYRB). Personally, I think that reading these stories in some ways spoils enjoyment of the plays themselves later on. My favorite tale was that of King Lear. Of course, the plays "taught" in school are pretty much ruined, also. As kids had done a hundred and more years before, we were still being forced to memorize Portia's speech, the two most famous speeches from Julius Caesar, and many, many other set pieces, some of which are still there in the memory, along with chunks from the Ancient Mariner, the Aeneid, and Chaucer. At least we didn't have to memorize Little Orphant Annie, Barbara Frietchie or Robert of Lincoln, thank goodness, although that doesn't mean that chunks of them aren't dodging around in the brain, somewhere, from having heard them so much recited by members of an older generation, or that we weren't exposed to them in school. James Whitcomb Riley, John Greenleaf Whittier, and William Cullen Bryant are probably very deeply out of vogue. Let's not even think about Thanatopsis! No doubt there are motivational speakers out there still quoting from that one.


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