What are you reading? – 12 May 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 12, 2016
Woman reading on park bench

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager, Southampton Solent University, is reading Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (Black Swan, 2014). “Ever wondered what it would be like to keep trying at life until you got it right? Until you realised what your purpose was, and finally could achieve it? It’s exhausting, at least for Atkinson’s heroine Ursula, and also for the reader, who must surely despair whenever darkness falls. Yet the bittersweet conclusion makes the effort worthwhile, for us all.”

Maria Delgado, professor and director of research at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading Stephanie Jordan’s Mark Morris: Musician – Choreographer (Dance Books, 2015). “I am a huge fan of Morris’ eclectic work. This excellent study offers an examination of his choreography – both epic and small scale – and of his wider activities as a conductor, coach, musician and opera director. Indeed, the brilliance of this rich, beautifully written book lies in the ways it illustrates the questions Morris raises about how music operates in dance and why they matter to broader ways of thinking about how we watch and listen.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is rereading Bernard Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees (Penguin, 1989). “Written in 1724, this controversial satire turned the conventional wisdom of the day on its head by stressing the beneficial economic consequences of luxury, vice, vanity, envy and pride. Mandeville coupled this with an attack on the fashion for founding charity schools, which by over-educating the poor made them unfit for their destined life of drudgery. Such schools, he thought, were chiefly a monument to middle-class hypocrisy.”

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Susan Signe Morrison’s Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife (Top Hat, 2015). “This retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic by one of the period’s most renowned scholars is gloomy and powerful in equal measure. Morrison names the poem’s anonymous character (Brimhild) and, in so doing, tragically personalises the victim of the poem’s patriarchal violence. The novel’s alliterative style constantly enacts the signature of its source: ‘loathsome love-making, putrid penetration, corrupt copulation’. Put this on the syllabus next time you teach Beowulf.”

Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in media studies, Birmingham City University, is reading Joanne Harris’ Different Class (Doubleday, 2016). “I spent about the first third of this book absolutely convinced I’d read it before. I hadn’t – but 10 years is a long time since the shenanigans of Harris’ earlier school story Gentlemen and Players. This time there’s oodles of misdirection as crotchety Latin master Roy Straitley meets an unwelcome blast from his past. The writing is always elegant, but blimey, the book is slow!”

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