Shaw, Plato, and Euripides -- Classical Currents in Major Barbara by Sidney P. Albert, UPress of Florida '12, 304 pages, ASIN #0813037646. Index, select bibliography, notes, appendix. unillustrated.
Shavian enthusiasts and critics alike have argued for many decades about Bernard Shaw's drama Major Barbara, so that more than a century after its first production, writes philosopher Sidney P. Albert, "there is still wide critical disagreement about the play's meaning and the ideas embedded within it."
In Shaw's narrative, Major Barbara (Undershaft) became disillusioned when her Christian denomination accepted money from an armaments manufacturer and a whisky distiller, finally deciding that bringing a message of salvation to the rich will be more fulfilling than converting the starving in return for bread.
According to the author, Shaw not only declared his devotion to philosophic concerns but "consciously and proudly donned the mantle of the philosophical poet, singing to philosophers and about philosophers from his dramatic scores." In doing so, he traced the connections between Shaw's play and two ancient Greek texts -- Plato's Republic and Euripides's Bacchae.
Author Sidley P. Albert is professor emeritus of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles. He is recognized as a leading authority on the dramas of Bernard Shaw.
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, Knopf '12, $25, 336 pages, ASIN #0307594033. Appendix, no index, notes or illustrations.
A diagnosis of fast-growing pancreatic cancer is nearly always fatal. So when Mary Anne Schwalbe was diagnosed in 2007, she and her son Will decided her final months wouldn't be spent in futile treatment. What they would be spent on turned out to be communication through a pastime dear to both their hearts -- reading -- as they formed a book club whose membership numbered two.
Will, who wrote this memorable narrative of their experience, adds an appendix of the books, plays, poems, and stories he and his mother read and discussed during her final months of life, a remarkable list ranging from Dante Alighieri's Purgatorio to Erica Jong, from Charles Dickens to Nikki Giovanni.
In the process of reading books and stories and discussing them, the author writes of the things his mother taught him, many during her last months: "Make your bed, every morning --- it doesn't matter if you feel like it, just do it. Write thank-you notes immediately. Unpack your suitcase, even if you're only somewhere for the night....Be cheerful and listen to people, even if you don't feel like it. Tell your spouse (children, grandchildren, parents) that you love them every day. Use shelf liner in bureaus. Keep a collection of presents on hand (Mom kept them in a 'present drawer'), so that you'll always have something to give people."
Will Schwalbe has worked in publishing, most recently as editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books; digital media, and as a journalist.