California Literary Review


Theatre Review: Blood and Gifts at the National Theatre, London


September 21st, 2010

Pop music functions as a metonym for the cultural appropriations and misunderstandings which occur onstage. Is an intelligence asset who can be bought with Tina Turner records a hopeless simpleton, or simply asking for payment in the currency which will gain him most prestige amongst his fighters? Does a song’s meaning belong to the pampered stadium rockers who recorded it, or the man who died on the “dark desert highway” it describes? And did The Eagles accidentally write an epitaph for the various nations who have tried to conquer Afghanistan over the last few centuries?

Book Review: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro


May 3rd, 2010

Beginning around 1800, the hunt started to find the “real” Shakespeare, the noble visionary who had exalted the spiritual struggles of humankind and celebrated the comedy of errors of our daily lives. In this engaging and well-researched book, James Shapiro charts the course of this pursuit of truth and beauty, arriving at conclusions that reflect both his insightful scholarship and common sense. Amassing an unassailable body of evidence, Shapiro proves that William Shakespeare of Stratford did indeed write the plays and poems credited to him, but not always as a solitary creative genius.

Book Review: Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom: The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth by Charles Beauclerk


April 6th, 2010

I would have thought Shakespeare in Love might have advanced our understanding of the authorship debate, but apparently not. Writers are still assuming that Shakespeare, be he lowly or lordly, wrote in some kind of mysterious vacuum, where learning stopped after the age of twenty. The idea that an Elizabethan dramatist could collaborate with his fellow actors, seek advice from scholars, listen to firsthand accounts from worldly patrons, observe royal scandals from backstage or borrow a bloody book now and again is apparently impossible.

A Conversation with Author and McSweeney’s Editor Paul Collins


July 31st, 2009

“I think most scholars tend to trust the First Folio more than anything else, not because of the materials that went into it, in terms of what papers did they have on hand, but because it was [the actors] Heminge and Condell. Because it’s the only two people that were directly involved in the productions, that have ever taken part in pulling together an edition of Shakespeare’s works, and so it’s their presence as much as any identifiable set of documents that made the Folio so important to scholars. They’re all we have in terms of eyewitness editing.”

Casanova by Ian Kelly


December 3rd, 2008

Ah, Casanova. Men want to be him, and women want to be with him. Or is it the other way around? He’s Romeo with cojones, Bond without the Beretta, a man more sinned with than sinning. In the annals of sexual conquest, there has seldom been a more entertaining and knowing chronicler. Casanova, according to Casanova, was a legend.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews


May 7th, 2008

Again, it took an intervention, this time by Moss Hart, to point her in the right direction. She doesn’t say much about what he did in the 48 hours of rehearsal that he devoted to her, but she does include one of his most memorable lines. When asked by his wife how the session had gone, he replied, “Oh she’ll be fine. She has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder how they ever lost India.” My Fair Lady was a hit and she belted it, day in, day out, both on Broadway and in London, fitting in her twenty-first birthday and a marriage to Tony Walton in the meantime.

The House That George Built by Wilfrid Sheed


September 4th, 2007

And in recreating social history, what a star-studded cast he lines up to perform for us! We find retold the lives and careers of preeminents like Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington , Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and many more.

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins by Rupert Everett


July 12th, 2007

The universe appears to have cheated Rupert Everett. By rights, he belongs to the Edwardian age, the gay with a capital “G” nineties, Oscar Wilde and the pursuit of beauty, art for arts sake, and to hell with propriety.

In Character: Actors Acting by Howard Schatz


April 22nd, 2007

Imagine 32 famous actors looking you straight in the eye and flirting with you. (Marlee Matlin! Natasha Richardson! Swoon!)

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