Books acquired: “The Newspaper in Art,” Garry Apgar, Shaun Higgins, Colleen Striegel; “The Green Eyes of Bast,” Sax Rohmer
Books read: “Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything,” Jennifer Keishin Armstrong; “Julius Caesar,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” William Shakespeare; “From Bill, With Love,” Bill McClellan
Let’s be clear: I did not read the “Riverside Shakespeare” omnibus pictured above, although I did lug it around much of the month to read two of the plays therein. “Are you reading the encyclopedia?” a restaurant server asked me humorously. No: an encyclopedia would be lighter.
I read two plays I hadn’t read in decades. First, “Julius Caesar.” After the controversy over the NYC version with a Trump-like Caesar, a refresher course seemed in order for a play I read for the first and last time in high school. Caesar dies at the hands of his would-be friends, only one of whom has pure motives, and from there, things don’t go as the conspirators had hoped. It’s an uh-oh-now-what cautionary tale about deposing a leader. Complex and endlessly quotable, this repays rereading. Consider my viewpoint unimpeachable.
After enjoying that one, and while still in Shakespeare mode, I decided to tackle a second, “Antony and Cleopatra,” a sequel of sorts. It turned out I had read this one in college (a few underlines in the introduction were the giveaway) and had completely forgotten I’d done so, although elements of the play seemed familiar once I was reading it. Marc Antony, post-eulogy for his late emperor, takes up a life of dissipation with the queen of Egypt before returning to battle. Cleopatra is among Shakespeare’s more complex female characters — at least, that’s what it says in the introduction I dutifully marked up — and this play may be underrated.
As for the “Seinfeld” study, I started it with high hopes and yada yada yada, it was average. Some good stories from the writers, though; it’s amazing how many plots, even the outlandish ones, came directly from personal experience.
In “From Bill, With Love,” the bard of St. Louis returns with a collection of his Post-Dispatch columns spanning two decades. The first half is love stories about local people, the second half a scattering of favorite pieces: features, gripes, personal takes and laments for his dying industry (and mine, too). Sly, heartfelt and sweet.
I picked up my Shakespeare in college (Follett Bookstore, University of Illinois, 1985), McClellan at St. Louis’ Subterranean Books in 2016 and “Seinfeldia” as a birthday gift this year.
The first half of August I’ll be traveling, which may give me more time to read or may give me less, depending on how preoccupied I am with the details of my journey and whether I spend my in-flight time reading, watching movies or sleeping. I’m taking a couple of intimidatingly long novels with me and hoping for the best all around.
How was your July? Were you shading your face with a book while lounging by a pool, or using a book to fan yourself with?
Next month: Escapism.