What are you reading? – 1 December 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 1, 2016
Person reading and drinking coffee
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Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Ian McEwan’s Nutshell (Jonathan Cape, 2016). “McEwan’s mischievous homage to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is to appropriate the plot of Hamlet and transform it into a cross between a thriller and a rewrite of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. In Shakespeare’s play, the prince figures the claustrophobia of court as being ‘bounded in a nutshell’. In McEwan’s novel, the nutshell is (Ger)Trudy’s womb whence the fetal narrator overhears her and Claude(ius)’s plot to do away with John, his poet/publisher father, and inherit the substantial but filthy marital house in St John’s Wood. McEwan relishes the disjunctions between Hamlet’s pensive interiority and the physical immediacy of the fetus’ situation, imbibing his mother’s ‘joyous, blushful Pinot Noir, or a gooseberried Sauvignon’. He also agilely dips into his source: at one point the fetus contemplates suicide in utero – an ingenious reworking of ‘to be or not to be’.”

Maria Delgado, professor and director of research, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading Lluís Pasqual’s De la mano de Federico (Arpa, 2016). “Lluís Pasqual is arguably the most important living director of Federico García Lorca’s work. He directed premieres of two incomplete Surrealist plays in the 1980s that revolutionised understanding of Lorca’s theatre; refashioned two of his plays as flamenco with Antonio Canales and then Sara Baras; and, more recently, presented an urgently political reading of The House of Bernarda Alba with Núria Espert, Spain’s greatest living stage actress, in the title role. Even Almodóvar found a cameo for him directing Lorca at the end of his 1999 film All about My Mother. This book offers reflections both on staging Lorca and on the themes that run through his writing: love, passion, the search for the other and heartbreak. Published 80 years on from his assassination, it’s a reminder of Lorca’s enduring legacy and of Pasqual’s role in shaping theatrical understandings of Spain’s most resonant 20th-century dramatist and poet.”

Rob Hornsby, senior lecturer in criminology, Northumbria University, is reading Gary Armstrong, Richard Giulianotti and Dick Hobbs’ Policing the 2012 London Olympics: Legacy and Social Exclusion (Routledge, 2016). “This amazing book goes beyond the Olympics and gives both a state-of-the-art commentary on post-industrial London and a glimpse into the dark side of Olympic-driven gentrification. The local police were as helpless in the path of the Olympic machine as the local politicians. Manipulated by the mayor of London and a predatory Olympic movement, residents of the London Borough of Newham have not benefited from the Games held in their backyard, so this excellent study should be examined by anyone considering holding a major sporting event in their city. An example of urban ethnography at its best, this is an outstanding read.”

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