september 16–30, 2023


  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest
  • Shirley Hazzard, The Bay of Noon
  • Osamu Dazai, Early Light, translated by Ralph McCarthy & Donald Keene
  • Michael Swanwick, Hope-in-the-Mist: The Extraordinary Career and Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees
  • Michael Swanwick, Bones of the Earth
  • W. H. Auden, The Sea and the Mirror
  • Ivy Compton-Burnett, A House and Its Head
  • Shirley Hazzard, We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think: Selected Essays
  • William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing


  • Prospero’s Books, directed by Peter Greenaway
  • A Walk Through Prospero’s Library, dir. Peter Greenaway

I’ve fallen into a half-baked project of re-reading Shakespeare, mostly from realizing that I hadn’t really re-read most of him since college, though I’d liked the bits and pieces I’d gone back to; it’s also very easy to polish off a volume of the Pelican Shakespeare without thinking too much about it. I imagine I’ll get distracted from this project after a few more plays, though I’m liking it so far. The Tempest, on re-reading, seems curiously inert plot-wise: once you know that Prospero is basically all-powerful, there’s not very much dramatic tension about how things will resolve themselves, though it’s still not entirely predictable. I’d never actually seen Greenaway’s adaptation, which really deserves to be seen in cinema. It’s impossible to imagine anyone making anything like it today. Greenaway’s focus on the figure of the book deserves attention; his twenty-minute short, A Walk Through Prospero’s Library, is an extended close reading of a few minutes of the finished film.

I also find myself re-reading Shirley Hazzard: The Bay of Noon is a fine short novel, and it almost makes one regret that she didn’t do more like this. We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think feels like a posthumous grab-bag; there are nice pieces in it, but it’s hard to imagine Hazzard agreeing to put it out. Earlier this year I’d set myself a project to read all of Ivy Compton-Burnett in order; I was distracted in March, but A House and Its Head is the most purely enjoyable thing I’ve read in a while.

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