Thursday, March 13, 2008

The World from a Stage

Yeah, yeah, I'm Trying to be clever but kinda not really succeeding. Anyway, I have just finished reading what is perhaps my favorite book by Bill Bryson, his biography of Shakespeare. I am a Shakespeare obsessive, and the idea of Bryson writing a book on him was very exciting and I have been wanting to get my hands on a copy since I read the first review. But this has surpassed all expectations. It is a slim book, about 200 pages, but there's so much information packed into it. Not only did I learn about Shakespeare, and how little we really know about him, but also about the times in which he lived.

Some things were awe-inspiring - like where we are now with communication technology and printing as compared to Shakespearan times and how much genius and how much luck it took for those plays to survive 400 - odd years. There are other things too, when Bryson describes life in Elizabethan London, some passages could almost be talking about Delhi. That got me thinking about the dichotomy of the times we live in. Most of us have indoor plumbing but this country still has to deal with a citizenry with perhaps the same level of awareness that masses in London in the 16th century had. It's a tough line to toe and maybe explains several of our problems.

Coming back to William Shakespeare, Bryson addresses the thorny question of authorship and builds a very convincing argument for the plays having been written by precisely who we think it was written by. Personally, I believe he is right - in my very uninformed opinion of course. I'm no literary detective. The biography is a gem, even if you're not in the least bit interested in Shakespeare. Bryson's Shakespeare is sort of a guide to life in the 16th and 17th centuries in England. It makes for fascinating reading, especially the popularity of the theatrein those times, and interesting facts, like that in Shakespeare's day, 40% of women got pregnant before they got married. Shakespeare is almost a bonus. He is in the book as in life (as Bryson puts so beautifully) "the literary equivalent of an electron, forever there and not there."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Texas and Ohio

So, Hillary Clinton is back in the race! This is very much of the good. I truly believe she's the better candidate at this point in time, she has the experience and the policies. There's lots of good stuff around the Internet on the gender vs. race question as well as on the primaries. NYT's Maureen Dowd, who has in recent times ripped Hillary Clinton apart in not nice ways, raises an important point when she says here:
With Obama saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man and Hillary saying the hour is upon us to elect a woman, the Democratic primary has become the ultimate nightmare of liberal identity politics. All the victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts. People will have to choose which of America’s sins are greater, and which stain will have to be removed first. Is misogyny worse than racism, or is racism worse than misogyny?
While I disagree with her on many counts, not least the extremely snide way in which she derides the Clinton campaign, I think this is a very important point and one that is aiding the Republicans more than anything. While the Democrats are busy fighting amongst themselves, John McCain has formally won the Republican nomination. This means that he can now start campaigning for President - a hell of a head start.

There are also other, very interesting pieces. Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post has argued that if Clinton loses the nomination it will have more to do with things other than her two X chromosomes. The most intriguing piece for me was this one, from the Seattle Post Intelligencer. The blogger, Monica Guzman, argues from a perspective I think many young women my age will be familiar with. We take so many things for granted as women that our mothers and grandmothers had to fight to achieve. And so in a large way in our day to day lives are removed from the issue of gender, and this, I imagine, holds true particularly for women living in developed liberal societies. But I don't agree (entirely) with her concluding thoughts:
That voters can see beyond gender when picking a candidate should serve as reward to the generation who fought so hard to make that possible.
I think her earlier paragraph contradicts this. She says:
But a female presidency, like a black one, will reflect a truly equal world only when the candidate's gender or race is as important as his or her hair color -- which, ironically, is when the fewest people will notice. That gender is an issue in this campaign should remind all us young women that the battle is not yet won.
More on the Democratic identity politics can be found here, in an excellent analysis of how much the race vs gender campaign is hurting the Democrats. And this piece on CiF should be read for different reasons entirely. The second comment is a good response, so I don't want to say much. Except I will link to this absolutely no-holds-barred indictment of all the people - liberals and otherwise - intent on either dismissing gender as a factor in the elections or arguing that its somehow less of an issue than race. And here is yet another excellent Washington Post piece on how much Hillary's candidacy means to women voters.