So foul and fair a day I have not seen

No entry last Friday because, as it happened, all that day I was traveling north.  I spent the weekend in Edinburgh, which was definitely the most awesome place I’ve seen so far in Britain.  While London is neat in its own way, mainly because it’s London, Edinburgh is really notable because it also has a lot of history, and most of this history wasn’t bombed to hell by the Germans and replaced with horrific 60s architecture.

The two panoramas I have here were taken from the top of Arthur’s Seat, and climbing it was probably 1) the coolest thing I did in Edinburgh, and 2) one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  It is one of the most marvelous things I’ve ever done, and the view was outstanding.  When I got to the top I began reciting “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins over and over again, and I’m not even particularly religious.  It was just that amazing.

And, of course, how could I have possibly gone to Scotland and to Edinburgh Castle, the ancient seat of the Scottish kings, without snapping this little beauty:

Good times are to be had in Scotland.

In other, almost entirely unrelated news, while on the train to and from Edinburgh I managed to read quite a few books.  This is because the train ride is damn long and I’ve apparently developed some sort of speed-reading capability, but since (as I’ve mentioned) there are  a million used bookstores around here I can pick up new material for cheap.  So I managed to reread Joyce’s Dubliners (good, of course), along with reading for the first time William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland (pretty okay, still need to find a hard copy of his The Night-Land since I’ve only read it online), and something like two dozen of MR James’s ghost stories.

I also read some in a classy little hardcover I picked up on a whim — it was only 75p and clocking in at just over 100 pages it has that “old-timey tiny hardcover” mystique, but unfortunately it isn’t that good.  It’s a collection of poetry and prose, but the stories are mostly plotless social realist vignettes that are sort of infuriating (when I finish it seems like nothing has happened, but I have the annoying feeling that the author’s played a trick on me) and the poetry is just sentimental and/or maudlin.  It’s called The Chameleon and is by a guy named Ignacio Muez Ajedra.  Yes, that name seems very Spanish, but the book is written in British English.  I don’t know if he was an immigrant or if the book was translated because the copyright page only says it was published in 1900 by Crane & Sons, as you will see, Google yields nothing on the man nor anything on his publisher.  There’s something a little neat, though, about having an old book that no one remember by a forgotten writer — kind of an Shelley’s Ozymandias vibe or something, or maybe I’m just a melancholy jackass.  At any rate, whoever Ajedra was, his name will now be forever linked with my blog once the Google bots start crawling over these words.  Sorry, man.

Also this week I saw a production of Measure for Measure at the Almeida here in London, and I have to tell you, it was superb.  I mean that as sincerely as I can, and I can’t relate to you how great this production is without sounding hyperbolic.  Let me put it this way: when I read Measure for Measure for the first time a few months back, I was pretty unimpressed.  The play seems sloppily written, perhaps somehow corrupted or even half-finished, and overall as a reading experience it’s very unsatisfying.  In the end it just doesn’t make any damn sense.  It is the job of a production, in my opinion, to find some way to fix these problems — not rewrite it or anything, coming up with fake Shakespeare dialog or whatever, but to find a way of staging it so that the audience is presented with a coherent and cogent reading of the play where the textual faults are levered as assets.

This production, suffice it to say, does that with flying colors.  I may write a whole entry on it later, when I have more time, but over the next few weeks I’ll also be seeing productions of Twelfth Night, Richard III, King Lear, and a recently written “sequel” to Macbeth called Dunsinane. If I can find some way to string my responses to all or some of these plays together I may put together a weekly series like my American Psycho exercise a few months back.  We’ll see.

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