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Posts Tagged ‘various authors’

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Quite simply, this is a collection of short stories all inspired by Jane Austen. Some are set in Jane Austen’s time, some are set in the present day, some are set in a fantasy world. As can only be expected with such a collection, and with such a varying range of writing styles, some are far more enjoyable than others and preferences will probably differ from reader to reader.

My favourites were the ones with a touch of humour, and – surprisingly for me because I am a big Austen fan – I preferred the ones set in the present day.

My favourites were Jane Austen’s Nightmare by Syrie James (where Austen meets several of her characters who berate her for her treatment of them through her writing); ‘Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!’ by Janet Mullany (where several contemporary schoolgirls learn lessons about love and life through discovering Austen’s works), and ‘The Love Letter’ by Brenna Aubrey.

Most of the others were enjoyable enough if not particularly memorable for me, although there were a couple I unfortunately did not like at all – ‘Jane Austen’s Cat’ by Diana Birchall just seemed extremely silly, and ‘The Chase’ by Carrie Bebris, while obviously well researched (it is based on an incident in the Navy career of Austen’s brother Francis) also did not work for me. However as mentioned before, such opinions are of course completely subjective.

Overall, if you have an interest in Jane Austen or her characters, I’d recommend giving this book a try. And as it is a collection of stand-alone stories, it’s one you can easily dip in and out of.

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Shakespeare and Me is a collection of essays by a variety of (mainly) writers, actors and directors, on what Shakespeare means to them and how he is still such a big part of modern culture. Throughout the essays, most of Shakespeare’s plays are mentioned, with many of the writers concentrating on just one.

As with all books featuring contributions by different people, some appealed more than others. My personal favourites were the three essays on Othello, and especially James Earl Jones’s ‘The Sun God’ (I was amused by the fact that he mentions actor Hugh Quarshie, and writes that he thinks Quarshie should play Othello – this essay was written prior to Quarshie’s performance as Othello at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre last year, which I was lucky enough to see). Eammon Walker – who himself played a fantastic Othello at the Globe Theatre – writes ‘Othello in Love’; and Barry John writes ‘Othello: A Play in Black and White’ which studied how the staging of a production of Othello started to draw parallels to the play itself.

I also enjoyed Re-revising Shakespeare by Jess Winfield of the Reduced Shakespeare Company; Shakespeare and Four-Colour Magic by Conor McCreery (where he discusses turning Shakespeare and his characters into comic book stars), and Ralph Fiennes’s ‘The Question of Coriolanus’.

If you have any interest in Shakespeare, I recommend this book.

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This is a collection of essays by 42 contributors (because as anyone who has read/watched The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy knows, 42 is the meaning of life), all of whom are atheists.  The contributors are mainly British, and come from a range of different backgrounds and viewpoints – some of the contributors are Ed Byrne, Simon le Bon, Lucy Porter, Richard Herring, Brian Cox and Derren Brown.  And what compilation of essays by atheists would be complete without a contribution by Richard Dawkins?!

As the title suggests, many of the essays are regarding Christmas – just because someone is an atheist doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy Christmas; after all, most of the rituals associated with Christmas are derived from pagan rituals in the first place.  Most of the essays – but not all of them – naturally also deal with the subject of atheism, but thankfully nobody here is trying to convert anyone to atheism, or encourage anyone to give up on their religion.

The contributions are divided into six categories – stories, science, how to, philosophy, arts and events.  I’ll be honest and say that a couple of the science contributions seemed to be a collection of long words put together in an order that I struggled to make sense of, but for the most part this is a collection of enjoyable, thought provoking, and occasionally hilarious stories and anecdotes.  ‘God Trumps’ by Christina Martin, where she describes making her own Top Trumps card set, featuring various religions, made me burst out laughing, as did (on several occasions) ‘A Day In The Life of a Godless Magazine’ by Caspar Melville and Paul Sims.  This particular essay, while fictional, contained snippets of various genuine letters sent to the New Humanist magazine – brilliantly funny.

Lucy Porter provides a list of recommended Christmas viewing/listening/reading, which can be enjoyed by the whole family, Derren Brown talks about how we should be kind to each other all year round rather than just at Christmas, and Simon le Bon describes how he gradually lost his faith – but how losing faith does not mean that he should or can not enjoy Church music or many of the rituals of a religious Christmas.

There is not enough room to mention each and every contribution, but my particular favourites are listed above.  As with all collections, some contributions are better than others, but there are very few entries which I didn’t find some enjoyment in.  I also don’t believe that this book is in any way offensive to people of any religion – as mentioned earlier, it isn’t an attempt to convert anyone – although some people are bound to be offended by it anyway.

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this book, but I can see myself picking it up again in future years, to at least read some of my favourite entries.  Definitely recommended.

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