Review of the Oxford University Press edition of “Songs of Innocence & of Experience” by William Blake

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Virtually unknown during his lifetime, William Blake is now viewed as one of the greatest artists and poets of his or any time, which I enthusiastically agree with. I first came across his work while in school. His poem, “The Chimney Sweeper,” is often taught to illustrate the way a piece of art can be used to criticize society and it’s current practices. I really love how Blake is not overtly political or preachy. His indignation is based on higher values and morality.

But this review is not about Blake’s wIMG_20170715_0002ork (what else could I possibly add?) It is about this specific edition of the book.

Although I had read much of his work since my school days, I never actually owned one of his books. I decided to browse around on Amazon for one since Blake has been such a great influence on me mine in both my writing and art. I finally purchased the Oxford University Press edition of “Songs of Innocence & of Experience.” Being just under $9, I knew that I couldn’t be too disappointed with my purchase.

This paperback version measures about 5×8 inches, neither small or large. The front and back covers feature a dark color scheme with a black background, making the front image appear vibrant and lively. Inside, the pages are cream while the font is a dark brown. This creates the illusion that the book is aged.

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The beginning of the book features a lovely and simple introduction by Geoffrey Keynes. He also provides commentary on the poems and illustrations in the back of the book. This really did help enhance my understanding of Blake.

One thing that could have been done better was the numbering. While the introduction and commentary pages are numbered, the poems and artworks are not. This makes finding the specific works tiresome.

Another dissatisfying element is that layout of the book. Two pages will feature text, and the next will have the accompanying artwork. This means you have to flip the page to really understand and take in all that Blake was intending to say. It would have been much more efficient to have the artwork on the left page with the poem on the right.

 

 

 

Despite this, the book does have many redeeming qualities. For one, it is very affordable. I do not think I could have gotten much better for the same price. Also, the colors of Blake’s illustrations are simply beautiful. Deep and vibrant, they certainly do not appear to be cheap copies.

 

On the whole, this edition’s low price, insightful commentary, and faithful reproduction of the color plates leads me to believe I made a good purchase decision.   I enjoy reading and viewing the poems and illustrations nearly everyday, and will continue to do so.

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Rembrant (1936) Film Review

I watched this film a few nights ago on TCM.

It starred Charles Laughton as Rembrandt van Rijn. The film begins at the time in his life when he was very popular & accepted in society.

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(Rembrandt van Rijn, Officers and Men of the Amsterdam Kloveniers Militia, the Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq, signed and dated ‘Rembrandt f 1642’, canvas, 363 x 438 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum)

But after the death of his wife, Rembrandt’s artwork became darker. When he revealed his painting, “The Night Watch”, people were shocked & disgusted. They ridiculed & denounced the work. Rembrandt, who was once so admired, became a symbol of failure.

It is hard to imagine why this classic painting was so reviled & criticized.  Many people believed that it was just too dark, & needed more light. Others thought that it showed the militiamen as too ordinary.

Throughout the next several years, Rembrandt suffered financial troubles & bankruptcy. He attempted to find comfort in a maid whom he wanted to marry, but this relationship only brought more ostracism. A judge accused them of being immoral.

His lover became ill & died before they were able to marry. Rembrandt fell even further from his former success. He walked the streets a beggar.

The film ends with him painting a self portrait & quoting Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

Although some of the monologues in this film drag on too long, it is still worth seeing if you are interested in the life of artists, or if you just want to see some very interesting costumes.

Dante’s Divine Comedy Vol. 1: Inferno – A Short Review

The first book of 2016 that I have finished reading is the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno.

The edition I read is translated by Mark Musa & published by Penguin Classics.

Musa’s blank verse translation makes the epic poem flow effortlessly, & his commentary makes it easy to understand.

The beauty & horror of Dante’s vision has left a huge impression on me.  Graphic descriptions of sinners being punished in various levels of hell left me feeling shocked & horrified.

For example, Canto 28 begins:

“Who could, even in the simplest kind of prose

describe in full the scene of blood & wounds

that I saw now-no matter how hard he tried!”

That is a rather tame quote from the Inferno, but it is a great example of how the reader is left in anticipation of the horrors to come.

I recommend this translation of the Inferno to anyone like me who has never read Dante or The Divine Comedy before.

Moulin Rouge (1952) Film Review

Last night I watched the film Moulin Rouge from 1952.

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“Dance At The Moulin Rouge” – You can almost feel the movement of the dancers.

Directed by John Huston & starring Jose Ferrer as the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,  this film is rather simple,  beginning with a can-can scene at the Moulin Rouge in 1890 Paris.

The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the costumes were.  The dresses were all unique & flowed wonderfully with the dancers.

The atmosphere of a smokey room filled with raucous behavior & too much alcohol set the tone for the rest of the film.

It goes through a fictional account of Lautrec’s life.  It explains how his legs stopped growing because he broke them falling down the steps.  His short stature causes much pain & suffering.  He drinks to alleviate this, which is ultimately his downfall.

It shows his trouble with women, & how he found the will to live through making his artwork.

Several of his artworks are displayed throughout the film.  They are truly unique & beautiful.

 

If you are interested in the life & works of artists, you should definitely check this film out!