Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;...
Whether we read in Middle English or Modern English, I'm sure teachers glossed over Chaucer's sly humor and more ribald jokes (mine did). Instead of laughing over bickering tradesmen and hypocritical churchmen, Chaucer came off dry, boring and a little stodgy.
Enter Peter Ackroyd. Known most recently for his geographic biographies, Venice, London, and Thames, as well as The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Ackroyd gives the reader a prose translation of Chaucer's poem. Not a line-by-line translation packed into paragraphs, with annotations and definitions, but a story that emphasizes the human characters that pout and whine, take offense, pontificate, and generally enjoy telling a naughty story or two. Ackroyd's uses modern prose and sentence structure while keeping the original narrative structure, characters and setting of The Canterbury Tales intact. This is a great introduction to Chaucer for those who might be hesitant to tackle the poem, to become familiar with the characters and the enjoy the stories without worrying over rhymes and poetic metaphor; on the other hand, those already familiar with Chaucer will appreciate Ackroyd's interpretation for the warmth and humor of the language without any loss of Chaucer's wit.
Enter also Penguin USA. Penguin has recently launched new paperback "packaging" of many classics and the paperback release of Ackroyd's The Canterbury Tales wasn't left behind (the original hardcover design is at the bottom of this post). Designer Ted Steam created a cartoon cover showcasing all the pilgrims from Chaucer's tales as they pass by the reader on the cover. It's a wrap-around design and worth every chuckle (I particularly like the richness of the Wife of Bath, the silliness of the three monks sharing a horse, and the student doggedly reading while on horseback). It reminds me of old movie posters like that of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Animal House where the actors' characters are charicatured in the drawing. Steam also paneled out "The Man of Law's Tale" and "The Miller's Tale" on the interior flaps. You can see an image of the entire cover at the Superpunch blog (The Canterbury Tales is the third set of images in the post; the whole post is a great overview of some of the new Penguin covers).
Chaucer is a favorite of mine and I own a number of different editions but this one shines a little brighter for the warmth of its story and clever cover art.
This year Edgar Allan Poe turned 200. What better way to celebrate the author who truly started the Horror and Detective genres than by reading his tales and poems.
These two collection are the top of The Eerie Coterie's List for Poe books. The first is a brand new collection of some of his most famous tales and poems of the macabre, where the latter is the definitive collection of his entire work. It is hefty so you may want to look into the Vintage Trade edition for your pocket and keep the larger volume at home to peruse.
Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe (1809-2009) and Happy Halloween to all.
This is the coolest poetry survey ever. Why? Because the three CDs included with the book contain archive recordings of poets reading their own work, that's why. The recordings start in the nineteenth-century and include fifty of the greatest poets. Two never-before-released recordings are included in this volume: Tennyson reads "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and James Joyce reads the "Anna Livia Plurabelle" sequence from Finnegan's Wake. It is truly amazing to think that those voices carry across the years and we can still hear their words today. Poetry Speaks Expanded makes a wonderful gift for any poetry aficionado (including you) and remember - April is always National Poetry Month!