Why is Hamlet so maddeningly indecisive? It’s a question as well-trod as any in literature, yet few people question that dithering is what defines the Prince of Denmark. In The Irish Times, Brian Dillon looks at another way of thinking about the character, one laid out in a recent book, that centers on the idea that Hamlet is crippled by “the burden of knowledge itself.”
“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, and Charles Dickens wrote about opium smoking in their novels. But if you read the way they describe opium smoking, without a doubt these people never saw the real thing. It’s laughable…What we see in movies, even to this day, with the obligatory London opium-smoking scene is complete fiction.” Interview with a modern-day opium addict.
Colm Tóibín’s new book on Elizabeth Bishop is unusually hard to categorize. Part “primer,” part “personal reflection,” in Jonathan Farmer’s words, it moves back and forth between analysis and lyricism, alternating passages of beauty with nuts-and-bolts guides to Bishop’s poems. In Slate, Farmer tries to nail it down. You could also read our own Michael Bourne’s review of Tóibín’s The Master.
“Even with such apparently juicy material, blithe self-exposure quickly grows dull. Their mutual trust comfortably established, Marsha, Emily, and Vincent unleash endless confession, allowing one another to stand in for the analysts they aren’t seeing over the summer. Nobody has to coax anything out of anyone.” On the age of social media and the novel Talk by Linda Rosenkrantz.