35 Comments

  1. Out of the 16 authors depicted, I can recognize most of the names (Lee and Woolf being the exceptions), but I have read only about half of the rest, and that’s only if involuntary (assigned) reading in school counts. The only ones that I can remember reading voluntarily are Dickens and Fitzgerald (and a bit of Shakespeare, but that was mostly to compare it to a film adaptation).
    P.S. In a critique of another translator’s version, Harry Rowohlt once wrote that Joyce’s “Ulysses” was supposed to be a “humorous” book, but I had suffered through more than enough of Faulkner’s “stream of consciousness” in “The Sound and the Fury”, so I decided that I would take Rowohlt’s word for it.

  2. P.P.S. I didn’t understand why Hemingway’s symbol was a boxing glove (until I looked it up). I would have expected a marlin, or possibly a skeleton of one.

  3. For Shakespeare, a jester’s coxcomb would be at least as appropriate as a stabbing.

    I’ve read a bunch of Dickens, but I’m not sure why top hat and tails fits.

    It would have been fun to have included Dante. Or Tolkien.

  4. @Kilby, Shakespeare never meant his plays to be read (except by actors). Watching the film was closer to what he had in mind than sitting alone with a book.

  5. @ Carl Fink – I didn’t actually intend to read the whole thing. The play in question is “Henry V”: I just happened to pick up a paperback edition (in English) here, so the next time I watch the movie, I’m goimg to follow along to see how closely the text fits.

  6. Somehow, I was very familiar with Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (read it, saw the movie, and played the LP record set of the play I had checked out from the public library for a party of my HS friends) long before I had read any substantial amount of Woolf’s own writings. Though I knew we were supposed to recognize her name in the title of the play, and I had certainly read a little about her and even likely a short excerpt from a book. This was just a short while before she became a feminist icon, so the summaries and excerpts presented to ambitious youths were actually more likely to be from one of her novels than an essay.

    Later on, I did read and enjoy some of her fiction (To the Lighthouse, Orlando), and also occasionally started but could not get far with others (Mrs Dalloway, The Waves). Eventually I saw a movie of Mrs Dalloway then returned to the novel and breezed right thru it — now that I knew the story, it was less of a problem that the text didn’t want to just give a reader the story that easily.

  7. @ ignatzz – “…would have been fun to have included…
    Atkinson produced three “Art School(s) of Fish”, so there is every possibility that this one will have a sequel, too.

  8. Anyway, I presume, the Woolf flowerpot is about Mrs. Dalloway.

    The Hemmingway is the only one I can’t specifically point to exact reference; but I took it just to be his overall machismo.

    Kilby and Mitch’s comments about recognizing the names vs. being familiar with what they are about vs. reading them was interesting. I’m the type of person who thinks being familiar with what they are about and recognizing the names were completely compatible and having read is secondary.

    I’d say I know them all even though I’ve read very few of them. And I wouldn’t feel in the least bit dishonest doing so.

    I recognize and get all of them even though Shakespeare, Dickens and Steinbeck are the only ones I’ve read sigificantly (I have read Frankenstein, Moby Dick, To Kill A Mockingbird, Orlando, and The Old Man and the Sea, but having read those to nothing to add to the comprehension I had of the writers before hand– the same could be said of Dickens and Steinbeck — oh, I’ve read Lady Susan to so I can add Austen to the list of authors I’ve “read”) but I’d have no compunction against saying I know them all.

    ….

    All in all this is not as good as his art fish ones. These are just specific icons and not anything about the style of the authors.

  9. “The boxing reference is to a short story that I had never heard of before seeing this comic: “Fifty Grand“.”

    Isn’t that the basis of the Clint Eastwood movie “Million Dollar Baby”?

  10. Although boxing comes up in his writing a few places, such as that story, I think the association is more to his interest in boxing outside his writing. He was a big fan, and liked to box himself. He had a boxing ring built at his home at one stage. And he was notorious for challenging other men to a bout, even bullying them. Other writers and hangers-on, or even once a pro boxer.

  11. I’d agree that the Hemingway boxing glove thing is more likely a general commentary on his macho image than a reference to the specific short story, but who knows?

    Anyway, I “recognize” all of these, and have read significant amounts (in some cases virtually everything published) for all of them except for Sylvia Plath (a few random poems) and Virginia Woolf (one novel, MRS. DALLOWAY, which I didn’t much care for). I was an English major back in college and grad school, but was never much into most 20th century writers.

    As it happens, I’m currently reading Herman Melville’s last novel, THE CONFIDENCE MAN (having reread MOBY DICK last year and enjoyed more than I did before, back in college). I’m finding it a bit of a slog, but will finish it.

  12. I’ve never read the story nor seen the movie, but Wikipedia says that the movie was based on a different story by a different author.

  13. Dana says: Oh, Mary Shelley!

    Ah, I also was (until seeing your comment) thinking about her hubby Percy — famous as part of the trio “Byron, Sheets, and Kelly”.

  14. “As it happens, I’m currently reading Herman Melville’s last novel, THE CONFIDENCE MAN (having reread MOBY DICK last year and enjoyed more than I did before, back in college). I’m finding it a bit of a slog, but will finish it.”

    I read that. It’s shorter than Moby Dick. It’s a bit surreal. I figure Cliff notes aren’t just fair but essential.

  15. Just to tidy up after Dana K’s question: ‘Woolf + Melville = Adams’ is a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Infinite Improbability Drive transformed a couple of missiles into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias, to tragicomic effect.

  16. Oh, DOUGLAS Adams. I was thinking of Don Adams. Sorry about that, Chief.
    I think Dickens is W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber in the 1935 David Copperfield movie.
    Seeing Dickinson as Death reminded me that just about every one of her poems is written in “Common Meter” so you can sing them to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island.”

    Because I could not stop for death death had to stop for me.

  17. Those of you having trouble with Shakespeare might find a use for the “No Fear Shakespeare” site. .

    It’s a little unclear how it is intended — since it comes from Spark’s Notes, that Cliff’s knock-off, it might be intended for study, that is, reading. But if you’re reading, in a helpful edition, you would already have side-note glossary and helpful footnotes.

    So maybe it is intended as a performance text? There is good argument for “modernizing” the text in performance, even taking into account Carl Fink’s excellent point that the acting can convey much of the meaning that the printed word would not. But even those who would welcome some alteration of the text to help modern audiences would not go as far as No Fear does in making almost a complete rewrite. And losing the Shakespearean sound, both for famous passages (as in the link above) and other less famous but characteristically Shakespearean passages.

  18. “The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all? Dying, sleeping—that’s all dying is—a sleep that ends all the heartache and shocks that life on earth gives us—that’s an achievement to wish for. To die, to sleep—to sleep, maybe to dream. Ah, but there’s the catch: in death’s sleep who knows what kind of dreams might come, after we’ve put the noise and commotion of life behind us. That’s certainly something to worry about. That’s the consideration that makes us stretch out our sufferings so long.”

  19. Surely the most “modern” translation of the famous soliloquy wouldn’t be nearly as wordy as the original, let alone the “No Fear” version:

    “To be, or not to be;
    Uhh, whatever.”

  20. Maybe, but there wasn’t in general much punning on writers’ names. There are stabbings in some of his most often done plays, so this could likely be for Julius Caesar , or maybe Hamlet though I think of swordplay more for that. (Or again, there is mention in the 2 bee oar knot 2 bee soliloquy of a “bare bodkin” as noted!)

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