11.05.2008

A Book & A Play

1. Theater. Erik XIV.
I caught the final performance of the American premier of Strindberg's play Sunday night with a good friend. The play, dating from 1900, focuses on a Swedish king from the 1500s and his madness, as well as his close advisor, Goran...who comes off as a cross between Dick Cheney and Grima Wormtongue at points. It was long, but it was good. Set in an old Lutheran church with heavy timbers and thick walls, the production marked the second I've seen and enjoyed by the local Cripple Creek Theater Company. The play opened a bit too goofily for my taste - I would have preferred Erik as less of a buffoon at first, to descend into madness rather than vacillate - but it improved progressively as darkness wove into the drama.

2. Literature. All the King's Men.
After reading the novel on and off since summer (mostly on planes), I managed to finish Robert Penn Warren's solid tale of the essence of Huey Long, American politics, and the South. While it was good - even very good in stretches - I felt as if Faulkner had done it all before almost a decade earlier, albeit with less coherence, more gothic detail, and more dark hyperbole. All the King's Men's strength over Faulkner lies in the character of the incredibly post-modern narrator, Jack Burden - and the book's characters generally, are very well drawn. Penn Warren's eloquence in certain passages, especially those with tangential musings, surpasses Faulkner, too.

As the New York Times put it upon the book's release in 1946:

Here, my lords and ladies, is no book to curl up with in a hammock, but a book to read until 3 o'clock in the morning, a book to read on trains and subways, while waiting for street cars and appointments, while riding elevators or elephants.