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I know William Weaver primarily for his translations from the Italian; he's done both Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino. Thrud had a fellowship for some time at the Villa I Tatti, and it turns out that Weaver wrote a history of the house, so I read it mostly out of curiosity about where Thrud had been living. A Legacy of Excellence: The Story of Villa I Tatti is I think a vanity project, honestly; it's a factual account of the house, its various refurbishings and renovations and contents, but it does not make an argument as to why the house is so important except that Bernard Berenson bought it, Edith Wharton stayed there a lot, and Harvard owns it now. There are a great many photos, and honestly that is what was important to me, but I cannot recommend this to anyone who is neither passionately interested in the architecture of Italian villas nor doing research on one of the relevant historical figures, especially as the last chunk of the book essentially reads as one long apologia for Harvard's tenancy and a lot of assurances that they are Maintaining The Place's Historical Value, which, I mean, it's Harvard, I was not going to assume that they aren't. Personal interest barely got me through this, though Weaver's prose is perfectly competent. I wonder why he wrote the thing?

And then the next night I read Paul Kozelka's The Theatre Student: Directing, because I have never been in a play and have always been curious about the directing process-- there is a lot of mystique surrounding it. Unfortunately, while vaguely informative, the Kozelka was also fairly dire. It seemed to be aimed at persons wishing to direct community theatre for an audience of children and operates on the assumption that such persons are by definition more cultured than the people around them and must bring this culture to the unenlightened masses; it also worships Stanislavsky, which does not seem entirely compatible with the previous. And the included play may be by Betty Smith, but I am sorry, a novelist does not always a playwright make. I learned some details about ways directors could organize their lives into a notebook and that is really all the help this gave me. Can anyone recommend anything better on the philosophy and technique of stage directing and acting? There must be more than this.

Fortunately after that I came to Osamu Tezuka's Swallowing the Earth.

I have an odd relationship with the God of Manga. Honestly, I don't enjoy Tezuka ninety percent of the time. I find Phoenix too unbearably depressing to be manageable, I tend to summarize Princess Knight to people as 'a comedy where all the wrong people die', and I find Urasawa's Pluto far more readable than the chunk of Astro Boy from which it is adapted. However, I keep reading and watching Tezuka, because every so often something happens like his nineteen-fifties theatrical version of Saiyuki (the English dub stars Frankie Avalon, I will never get over this), or the first ten pages of Apollo no Uta, or the Tezuka studio's gorgeously weird Kanashimi no Belladonna, one of the strangest films ever made (it's a film based on the 1860s book about witchcraft La Sorcière, and almost all of the animation consists of still pans over paintings-- I love this movie, but I totally understand why it was an utter commercial failure).

So I tend to go into Tezuka with a certain hesitancy. I refuse to become attached to his characters, and honestly I am usually waiting with trepidation for the book to do something I hate.

Swallowing the Earth I do not hate. )


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March 2017

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