Tag Archives: classic

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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Blade Runner 2049 came out on October 6th,  so why not read the book that started it all: Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

In the aftermath of World War Terminus, humanity has mostly fled to Mars. People who go to Mars get an android for free. But some of the androids, who are almost indistinguishable from real humans, kill their masters and attempt to hide on Earth. It’s Rick Deckard’s job to find and “retire” them. Deckard is armed with an empathy test because it is the only way you can tell an android apart from a human.

When I watched the original Blade Runner, I had a vague feeling that Deckard retired androids because it was his job; I loved that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? gives Deckard more motivation for retiring the androids – he needs the money to get a real animal to replace his electric sheep. Most animals are extinct after the war, so the humans covet living creatures. Those who can only afford a replicant animal are looked down on (at least if it is known – the replicants are very realistic). The book also has some really fun twists and turns (the really good ones are about half way through the book) that are absent from the movie.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

The biggest downfall to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is that the book is a bit dated in some ways, particularly in regards to how it treats women. For the most part, the women in the book either stay at home or are secretaries, which is a very 1960’s ideology (this isn’t surprising as the book was published in 1968). But other than that, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a fun romp through a desolate future.

Blade Runner 2049 (new movie poster)

Blade Runner (original movie poster)

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

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Do you remember the campy version of Batman from the 1960’s TV show?  That’s the way he was portrayed for several decades. But everything changed in 1986 thanks to Frank Miller’s Batman: the Dark Knight Returns. Miller’s depiction of the Dark Knight, along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen, ushered in a new, darker era for comic books.

The Dark Knight Rises is itself a very interesting read. Batman retired ten years ago. But crime has continued unabated in Gotham City. When an extremely violent gang appears, something within Bruce Wayne snaps and he can’t keep Batman hidden inside anymore. But Wayne is over fifty years old; fighting crime is much harder in his aging body.

Gotham City has also changed. Commissioner Gordon is retiring. His chosen replacement, the first woman Commissioner, feels the Dark Knight is a menace who must be hunted down. This is part of a larger debate within Gotham City, where various individuals weigh in on how they feel about the Dark Knight’s return. This part of the story feels very relevant to today, both in the way that it is presented (with talk show hosts bringing in various guests to debate) and in how divided in thought everyone is. And while The Dark Knight Returns has these modern aspects, it is also very much a product of its time, having been written during the Cold War; it expressly deals with people’s fears from the time (but with a superhero twist).

One warning though: the physical book is rather daunting thanks to the sheer amount of dialogue in it. The art is also not particularly appealing, making this graphic novel a bit harder to get through as well. But the story is very much worth it!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Totalitarian control. Censorship. Loss of Freedom. All of these things are as much of a concern in 2017 as they were decades ago. Since Trump entered office, Orwell’s 1984 has become a bestseller once again. There are growing concerns about government control, “Big Brother” and spying to name a few. However, while 1984 has been highlighted in North America’s conscious, there is yet another perspective that should be considered: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. While not quite as popular as Orwell, Bradbury makes excellent observations about Western Society’s possible downfall.

The world of Fahrenheit 451 is one of entertainment- parlour families shown on large screens in individual’s houses that one can interact with, radio, and the pastime of driving extremely fast for the fun of it. The average citizen has been amused into submission. They have no interest in books. It happened slowly- universities gradually lost all enrolment and therefore closed; schools became places to learn how things operate- not why. Individuals gradually become submissive and they were happy to abide by the illegality of books as they continued to be increasingly entertained. At least, most citizens were.

Guy Montag is a fireman- not a person who extinguishes fires- a person who creates fires largely for the purpose to destroy books and the places that house them. One day he meets 17 year old Clarrise McClellan who is so peculiar she makes Guy question his worldview- especially his definition of happiness and his career choice. He brings these questions home and to work which makes his peers suspicious.  His superior, Captain Beatty, comes to comfort him in his doubts about being a fireman – to promote happiness, since books cause unease and unrest in people. Surely they are the detriment to people’s happiness and must be destroyed at all costs. But Montag wonders, how can that be true since his wife tried to take her own life with sleeping pills one night? Surely, there must be a reason why some risk their lives to protect books- like one lady he himself helped burn.

As I read through Fahrenheit 451 I couldn’t help but apply the themes to my own life. I have an entertainment machine in the palm of my hand-my smartphone- and I often use it for mindless dribble more than for educating myself. I look at the party culture of my generation and the inability many of my peers have to think about even the short term future and it saddens me. As I gain encouragement from Bradbury and other writers, I have been changing what I do in my spare moments- listening to audio books in the commute to and from work, taking classes, and so forth. Let’s not be made passive by entertainment, but use leisure for building us up.

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie is one of the world’s bestselling novelists thanks to her 66 detective novels. According to her website, she has only been outsold by Shakespeare and the bible. Having never read an Agatha Christie novel before, I decided to read And Then There Were None, which is considered to be one of her best books. This is not just hearsay: And Then There Were None is listed on the Wikipedia List of Best Selling Books; it has an estimated $100 million in sales since it was published in 1939, and it remains in print today, with a new hardcover copy  having been published in the fall.

And Then There Were None is the story of ten strangers with vastly different backgrounds who are all invited to stay at an island. After arriving, the guests are informed that their host and hostess are delayed; it’s around that point that they realize they were all invited under differing and rather mysterious circumstances. Then the guests start dying one by one. The first death can be explained as a suicide. But by the third death, there can be only one explanation: murder. After a thorough search of the island, the guests realize that they are the only ones present, which means one of their party is the murderer! How will the innocent guests figure out who the culprit is before they’re all dead?
While And Then There Were None is a little bit dated in its writing style, I can easily see why it remains the world’s best selling mystery novel. It is a bit light on the characterization, but I found that doesn’t really matter because And Then There Were None is all about the plot. It is an excellent mystery that will keep you guessing right to the end!

Young Adult Titles Inspired by Shakespeare (taken from the TBPL Teen Tumbler) Assorted Plays

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various shakespeare poster

 

Inspired by The Tempest: Tempestuous by Kim Askew; Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston; Rough Magic by Caryl Mullin

Inspired by the Taming of the Shrew: The Taming by Eric Walters & Teresa Totem

Inspired by Twelfth Night: The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

Inspired by Othello: Exposure by Mal Peet

Inspired by King Lear: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley*

Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Love in Idleness by Amanda Craig*

Inspired by A Winter’s Tale: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E K Johnston

Inspired by multiple texts: Wise Children* by Angela Carter; Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher; Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev; Fool* by Christopher Moore

Featuring Shakespeare himself as a character: Shakespeare’s Stealer series by Gary Blackwood; King of Shadows by Susan Cooper; Love Disguised by Lisa Klein

ones with * are adult books

Shakespeare in Popular Music, part One

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by Unknown artist, oil on panel, late 16th century (late 15th century)

by Unknown artist, oil on panel, late 16th century (late 15th century)

Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal. T.S.Eliot

Sometimes,it’s not really stealing, its is simply paying homage to great words and great ideas.  I was actually surprised by the number of pop songs that have taken inspiration by Shakespeare’s words or plays. The variety of artists range from Bob Dylan to Dire Straits, with Canadian contributions by The Tragically Hip, The Barenaked Ladies and Rush.

A personal favourite is “Cemetery Gates by The Smiths. I fell in love with the lyrics, and was surprised that the words had a literary pedigree. The quote is from Richard III,  Act Five, Scene III

  RATCLIFF
Ratcliff, my lord; ’tis I. The early village-cock
Hath twice done salutation to the morn;
Your friends are up, and buckle on their armour.

KING RICHARD III
O Ratcliff, I have dream’d a fearful dream!
What thinkest thou, will our friends prove all true?

By this time in the play, Richard’s plans are falling apart and his conscience is bothering him. The ghosts of his misdeeds, figuratively and literally, are beginning to surround him and for Richard the end in nigh.  The Smiths version conjures Shakespeare and references Wilde, Yeats and Keats, as well.

“Cemetery Gates”
The Smiths

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your sideA dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mineSo we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry

You say: “ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn”
And you claim these words as your own
But I’ve read well, and I’ve heard them said
A hundred times, maybe less, maybe more

If you must write prose and poems
The words you use should be your own
Don’t plagiarise or take “on loans”
There’s always someone, somewhere
With a big nose, who knows
And who trips you up and laughs
When you fall
Who’ll trip you up and laugh
When you fall

You say: “ere long done do does did”
Words which could only be your own
And then you then produce the text
From whence was ripped some dizzy whore, 1804

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re happy
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Oh Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re wanted
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose because Wilde is on mine

Sonnet Twenty -Nine By William Shakespeare, adapted by Rufus Wainwright

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Sonnet 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 Too many Shakespeare is simply something one is forced to study in high school, the beauty of the words and the rhythms lost to teenage ears. To others, Shakespeare is part of an elitist past, meant only for the world of academia. To many though, myself included, the words and the themes are still part of our personal journey, to be freshly discovered over again.

On his forthcoming album, Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare’s Sonnets, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright has chosen to adapt nine of  Shakespeare’s sonnets in honor the anniversary of the poet’s death. The album features appearances as diverse as William Shatner, Carrie Fisher and Florence Welsh, from Florence and the Machine fame. Among the adaptions is a beautiful rendering of Sonnet 29.

Take_All_My_Loves_-_9_Shakespeare_Sonnets

There are a number of Youtube videos, including : https://youtu.be/ngk4sRQ2C-Y

I chose this one for it’s simple beauty.