Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at Spooky Park this weekend where I saw a remarkable version of KING LEAR. The cast was amazing and the setting-despite the 100 degree temperature- magical. The theme of the aged parent and feuding children appears to be timeless. Can you think of a current novel that deals with this topic? Enthusiastic Theatergoer

Dear Enthusiastic, What a great performance and it certainly seemed as if the actors had even more fun than the audience! There is talk of a reprise in late September - I'll keep you informed. But back to a book recommendation: A THOUSAND ACRES by Jane Smiley is a modern day version of Shakespeare's tragedy with Lear and his daughters transported to a 1970's farm in Iowa . Larry and his three daughters, Caroline, Rose, and Ginny (notice the initials correspond to Lear, Cordelia, Regan and Goneril) live tortured lives with warring husbands, lovers, and sibling grievances all coming together to form an explosive ending. We are even given a rainy night scene on a heath/pasture. The interesting difference is that Smiley's version paints richly sympathetic portraits of all three daughters. Not so lucky are the men we meet , and the reader is hard pressed to see Larry/Lear as a noble figure brought down by foolishness, pride, and old age. Larry has none of Lear's redeeming characteristics so his downfall is less than tragic but makes for a rewarding tale, nevertheless.

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