Friday 29 October 2010

What are you reading? Dr Mike Sanders

Like a number of my colleagues I am in the fortunate position of being on research leave this semester and am taking full advantage of having more time for reading than is the case during a teaching semester.

At the moment, as part of my current research project, I'm reading Thomas Cooper's Chartist epic, The Purgatory of Suicides (1845). Written whilst Cooper was serving a prison sentence following his role in the mass strikes of 1842 and consisting of 944 Spenserean stanzas or 8,496 lines of poetry, with a cast-list that ranges from Mithridates to Mark Anthony and from Judas Iscariot to Castlereagh, it is a demanding but rewarding read.

For general interest I am alternating between James Shapiro's 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and Rob Young's Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music. The former offers a fascinating account of how Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It & Hamlet all came to be written in 1599. The latter explores the manifold ways in which folk music has been interpreted and transformed from Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams through Ewan MacColl, Shirley Collins and Nick Drake to Kate Bush and Julian Cope. Light relief is provided by a Marxist classic, in this case the collected scripts of Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel.

Following the announcement of the ConDem's Comprehensive Spending Review, which clearly aims to return Britain to the 1920s and 30s, I  have decided it is time to prepare for the coming crisis by re-reading some of the classic working-class fiction of that era, beginning with Lewis Jones' We Live and Walter Brierley's Sandwichman.

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