It has been 56 years since Come Blow Your Horn first hit Broadway, but this first-ever play by the venerable Neil Simon has stood the test of time. The production by the Players Guild of Dearborn (in Michigan) is true to the lightly comedic spirit that Simon intended.
Sue Delosier, in her role as Mother, stole show with her deft handling of comedic timing and delivery. That comes from a long career spanning 70 productions. One member of the audience said “she was really into her part. The whole audience fell in love with her.”
Mother certainly needed a good sense of humour to deal with her eldest son, Alan Baker, played by Alex Gojkov. The role is that of a playboy, a kind of goof-off who enjoys the money from the family business but isn't keen on being associated with it. Perhaps not too surprising as not many 30-year-olds can find much romance in the wax fruit business.
Younger son Buddy, played by Graham Dallas, has a lot of one-on-one stage time with Alan, especially in the first half of the play. They played off each other in a very natural manner, making it quite believable they were siblings. Their light banter was engaging.
Looking up to his older brother, Buddy decided he wanted to leave the nest and be with Alan. He found the allure of partying all the time to be alluring, but he finally realises he just wants to be a writer. This is Neil Simon's persona in the play.
There was a slight wardrobe malfunction in the performance I saw, which turned out to be cute. Allan's girlfriend Peggy (played by Jazzmin Sharara) was not able to get a coat on and walked off the set with one arm in and one out! Both her and Allan's other girlfriend (played by Nicole Harris) were delightfully portrayed. The cast was rounded out by Ron Eagal as Mr. Baker, and Marsha Barnett-Krause as Aunt Gussie. Her one-minute part at the conclusion of the play was perfectly cast for a cameo.
The most memorable scene in the play is where Mother tries to make notes during a succession of phone calls, but unable to find a pencil she tries to keep it all in her memory. She gets so confused she can't remember anything coherent. Her young son comes into the room and goes to a small bar where he opens what appears to be a old-fashioned straw dispenser. It is full of pencils! Her reaction was hysterical.
The very modest set by Ross Grossman, meant to evoke an apartment in the east Sixties, New York City, set just the right tone for this production. As the first play in the 90th season of the Players Guild of Dearborn, this is a sure-fire hit.
Come Blow Your Horn directed by Kori Bielaniec in her debut as a director, ends its run today, October 1, 2017.
thanks to Sharon Williams and Dr. Matt Emanuele for their review comments.
The subtitle of this award-winning book is a bit misleading, as author Meghan J. DiLuzio does cover the role of priestesses in both the Republican and Imperial Roman periods, although the emphasis is certainly on the former. DiLuzio is assistant professor of Classics at Baylor University in Texas.
Earlier this year I met Dr. DiLuzio at the annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS), where I asked about what led her to research this book. Here she mentions Dr. Mary Beard of the University of Cambridge.
“I decided to write about priestesses in Rome because I had read Mary Beard's article about Vestal virgins where she talked about how the Vestals must have had a masculine aura that surrounded them because they were the only priestesses in Rome. To sacrifice you had to have this official public status.
“That seemed odd to me because we do have evidence for other public priestesses like the flamen Dialis, the flamen of Mars, priestesses of the Quirnalis and of Ceres: so there are other priestesses but they weren't getting a lot of attention in the major scholarly works on priesthood or on women in religion.
“John Scheid's article on women in Roman religion asserts very definitively there are no priestesses other than the Vestals although he does acknowledge these other women are performing official roles but there is a sort of problem of categorizing them. I wanted to address what I thought was the issue of the way we are talking about women and their official role in public cults, and present all of the evidence to show they did have a very full role in public cults but one that was conditioned by their gender and Roman ideologies of gender.” DiLuzio said “how this impacted the kind of cults they were involved in and the kind of relationships they had to other public priests” was central to her project, which I must say is a great success.
The author convincingly demonstrates how pervasive the role of women was in a wide variety of ceremonial rites in ancient Rome. Sometimes this was in conjunction with a man, as a priest of a major cult was quite literally married to the priestess of the cult. If she died, the priest had to withdraw from his role, to replaced by another married couple. Foremost among these was the flamen Dialis, and his wife the flaminica Dialis, representing the priesthood of Jupiter, the foremost god. Their requirement to perform daily sacrifices meant they were never allowed to leave the city walls of Rome.
On page 144 she deals head-on with the model advanced by Beard that Vestal Virgins possessed a certain “sexual ambiguity” that made them sacred figures. This thesis, writes DiLuzio, “is untenable.” She looks at a particular leader of the Vestals, Cornelia, “who was convicted of incestum and buried alive” by the emperor Domitian. According to Livy, she defended herself thus: “does Caesar think that I have been unchaste, when he has conquered and triumphed while I have been performing the rites?” This plea, says DiLuzio, “hinges on the relationship between her virginity and efficacy of the sacra (religious rites) in her care. If she has performed the sacra unchastely, Domitian's campaigns would have been doomed to failure.”
The plea, which did not dissuade the tyrant, shows not only the link between Rome's own inviolability, but that of the Vestal Virgin. This also highlights the vast difference between what we regard as religion today, and what it meant to those in ancient Rome.
An examination of the Vestals occupies much of the book as it was the premiere cult that has survived the best in our sources, but the author gives full attention to several other cults. She describes the Salian Virgins as both enigmatic and the most intriguing of the ones under discussion. Unlike Vestals, Salian priestesses “only remained in office as long as they were virgins,” so they resigned upon marriage. Most were thus teenagers, who danced through the city to the Forum at the beginning of the military campaign season. Thus she disputes the opinion of some scholars that the Salian dance was not a martial ritual but merely an initiation rite into adulthood.
The book offers several illustrations showing how the Vestals dressed, and DiLuzio goes into great details about such things as their hairstyle, shoes, and jewelry (or lack of it). Their public role is also given its due in this book, showing how they could and did intervene in public affairs. The most notable of these is the decision by Sulla to kill the young Julius Caesar. Fortunately Caesar had already been named flamen Dialis, and a personal intervention to Sulla by the leader of the Vestal Virgins saved his life, and thus changed history.
A fascinating book that shows how, despite centuries of scholarly study, we still labour under serious misapprehensions about ancient Roman life and culture.
For A Place at the Altar: Priestesses in Republican Rome, CAMWS awarded its “First Book Award” to DiLuzio in 2017.
I noticed three typos: pg. 57 (That the he); pg. 102 (that that); pg. 193 (rather than); Photo with this article by C. Cunningham
A Place at the Altar: Priestesses in Republican Rome (281 pages) is $45 from Princeton University Press.
The beginning of the 70th season of the Windsor Symphony was studded with several sparkling highlights including its opening selection, the world premiere of Fallen by composer Jordan Pal.
After a warm introduction to the new season by Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens, conductor Robert Franz led the symphony into the short ode Fallen, one of the compositions commissioned by the government to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. Fallen will have its premiere with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, 2017.
As its title implies, it is about fallen soldiers. Its title derives from the final stanza of Canadian Master Corporal Charles Matiru's poem Dark Shadow. He was an Afghan vet who died recently due to PTSD. The ode is deliberately unpleasant, a mixture of chaos and frenetic passages intended to give us a glimpse into the soul of those suffering from the psychological wounds of war. In its resemblance to a film score, it tries to evoke emotion in the listener. It has a sincerity to it, which is tough to do in a postmodern society.
A world away from this is the Brahms composition Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn, which was delivered in a unique way. Instead of just offering us the music, each of the variations ranging from pastoral to scherzo was introduced by a poetic excerpt. The contributing poets, including Windsor poet laureate Marty Gervais, were in the audience, while their poems were faultlessly read by a young man and woman on stage.
If one regards a frame as part of the picture, the poems were expressing the idea that musical compositions do not end on their final note. It was both a delightful way to breathe new life into a piece over 200 years old, and a daring choice as it could easily have fallen into an unwelcome pastiche. It was a nice way to make a piece that's not Canadian a way to celebrate Canada, and the inclusion of Windsor-based poetry is a nod to the city's 125th anniversary this year.
There was an especially good connection between Variation 5, a sprightly piece where the violins literally dance which was likened poetically to Walkerville by Gervais, which conjures up a famous bicycle race in that part of Windsor in 1896. Variation 7, a stately composition suitable for a river cruise, was paired with a few lines from the poem Windsor by Carlinda D'Alimonte. “I relax into the space, in the small steps I can take.”
Other poems talked about Al Capone and rum running (a well known local pasttime in the 1920s), “a cannonball that won nothing for nobody”, and by Peter Hrastovec “there is an art in everything and in everything a reason.” My favourite was paired with Variation 8: “History is a fable unless you tell it honestly,” from South Windsor by Vanessa Shields. Other poets included in the Variations music-poem combo were Mary Ann Mulhern, Dorothy Mahoney and D.A. Lockhart.
The second half of the programme featured a flawless performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, complete with the Windsor Classic Chorale and University of Windsor Chamber Choir. Combined with the symphony, the stage held some 350 performers, including four guest soloists: Marjorie Maltais (alto), Ryan Downey (tenor), Margie Bernal (soprano) and in one of the choicest roles for a bass singer, Reginald Smith.
Instead of going for a punch to the jaw early in the performance, conductor Franz wisely saved it for the ending. While he held back, he added just enough emphasis to titillate the musical taste buds. It is sometimes good to show restraint! In the end, the assembled performers knocked it out of the park, to borrow a sports analogy, no mean feat in a venue originally designed as a cinema.
For a finale with several children's choirs standing along the side and in the aisles, the audience was treated to a rousing rendition of Canada This Is My Home. With the instrument plus vocal power boosted to more than 400 in a venue that only seats 640, it was truly an impressive way to begin the 70th season.
Thanks to Mitch Raeck for his musical expertise in the preparation of this article. Photo by C. Cunningham
The next performance of the symphony, the music of Star Wars on Sept. 30, is already sold out.
Visit their website for details on other upcoming shows:
“You must not expect anything celestial of me!” Jane Eyre declares to Mr. Rochester, the man who loves her. Rochester, undaunted by Jane's multiple efforts to break away from him, declares “Your sternness has a power beyond beauty.”
In this retelling of Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, the audience is presented with original dialogue from the iconic book, and a twist to the tale of the repression of the natural passions and desires of women. Directed by Brian Taylor, the 1995 play is being offered by the University Players at the University of Windsor.
When it was published in 1847 the book was derided as anti-Christian, and certainly much of the tendentious dialogue in the play (from Jane's schoolmaster, and later her suitor, a messianic clergyman [both strikingly portrayed by Averey Meloche]) puts Christianity in a bad light. But that is not the focus of British playwright Polly Teale. In an article she wrote in 2005, Teale identified that focus: “Everything in the novel is seen through the magnifying glass of Jane's psyche. But if this is a psychological drama with Jane at its centre, why did Brontë invent a mad woman, Bertha, Rochester's first wife, locked in an attic to torment her heroine? Why is this rational young woman haunted by a raving, vengeful she-devil?”
In this play, the virtuous but stern Jane is played with gusto by Lauren Fields. Her inner self is played by Alicia Plummer; confusingly, she also portrays Bertha in this production. I say confusingly because some patrons were unclear how to distinguish the raging “inner self” persona and the raging “crazy wife” character. Are they in fact psychologically linked in the mind of Charlotte Bronte? Having the same actress portray both certainly invites this synergistic relationship, which was intentional.
This is not to detract from the overall production, which achieves an entirely professional level of presentation. The minimalist set (by David Leugs), with its strong geometrical lines, experience a resonance with the single musical instrument that makes an occasional appearance on stage. The handsome Cole Reed as Rochester delivers an entirely believable performance. “He is not a ghost but every nerve I have is unstrung.” Jane's reaction to him does not strain credulity because of his bravura showing.
For some in the audience, a dog stole the show! Rochester's dog was so well delineated by Meloche that I overheard one person saying “I've seen everything now!” Someone else regarded the pooch as the high point of the play. His scampering across the stage, and playing with an imaginary ball, offered some much-needed comic relief.
Other actors, who gave the play just the right balance and texture, are Jacob Free, Taylor Brimner, Xanath Fuentes and Eva Flores. I must also mention, Agatha Knelsen, whose costumes were period perfection. The play is performed in the theatre in Essex Hall at the University of Windsor; it was just upgraded including a new stage floor which makes its debut with this production.
Jane Eyre runs through Oct. 1, 2017. Visit their website: http://www.universityplayers.com
Tourism in Windsor, Ontario is focused along the riverfront, and there is no better way to get acquainted with it than a cruise along the river in the Macassa Bay cruise ship. Leaving from its dock right in front of Caesar's Casino, it offers a variety of cruises including a 2-hour trip along the Detroit River that I enjoyed on a sunny Labour Day Weekend.
In the lead photo, just above the prow of the passing pleasure boat, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Built in 1902 as an industrial research lab for Park-Davis, it is now a hotel. Its Romanesque Revival style is quite striking, but it has a counterpart on the Canadian side.
The cruise begins by heading east in Canadian waters. One of the first sights is a Romanesque-style church near the Hiram Walker distillery, world famous for its whisky. The running commentary aboard the ship tells the tale that the Holy Rosary church (pictured here) has a lurid past. The cross between the steeples can be lit up, and it was used during Prohibition to signal rum runners that the coast was clear to smuggle liquor across the river to Detroit. Al Capone reputedly donated the cross to the church! Its days as a church ended in 2007; it is now an event centre.
After making its turn to the west, the Macassa Bay (built in Hamilton in 1986) gets quite close to Belle Isle, the largest city-owned park in the U.S. Several sites are clearly visible including a very large fountain, 510 feet in diameter with a spray that can reach 125 feet. It was completed in 1925, when times were good, before the Depression. Also visible is the Coast Guard station, a maritime musuem, the old dance hall (called a casino), and the Carillon clock (pictured here). It is an 85-foot tower in neo-Gothic style, opened in 1940. The layout of Belle Isle was designed by Frederick Olmsted, whose most famous creation is New York City's Central Park.
The cruise offers a superb close-up view of downtown Detroit before passing under the Ambassador Bridge, where it turns back west for a scenic look at the sculptures along Windsor's Riverwalk. These will be familiar to anyone in Windsor, but seeing them from the river side offers a whole new perspective of this delightful outdoor sculpture garden.
Visitors on the cruise can choose to stay inside, shielded from the elements (weather sun or rain), or be outside on one of 2 decks. Quite a few chairs and tables are provided on both decks for those who prefer to remain seated.
For information and pricing, visit the website: www.windsorrivercruises.com
Photos with this article by C. Cunningham
The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Dieppe was especially commemorated in Windsor, Ontario because its famous Essex Scottish regiment originated from here.
The lead speaker at the event on Aug. 19, 2017 was Morris Brause, former commanding officer of the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment.
“Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations for the Allies, planned for an ambitious raid on the coastal port of Dieppe, France. This raid was regarded by the military staff as an indispensible preliminary to the full-scale invasion of France. Topographically, Dieppe was a very difficult challenge with towering sheer cliffs rising from the waters' edge; adding to these natural defences were the coastal heavy defences reinforced by the Germans during the past years of the occupation.”
“I have no doubt that the Battle of Normandy was won on the beaches of Dieppe,” Mountbatten said following the war. “For every man who died in Dieppe, at least 10 more must have been spared in Normandy in 1944.”
Brause explained that the main objective of the raid “was to conduct a raid to test the theories of beach landings in Europe. The mission of the Essex Scottish was to take the town. In our Canadian military history not every battle is won, so we should not just reflect upon those that are winning battles but we have to reflect on the tragedies also," Brause said to a crowd of assembled veterans, military personnel, and members of the public.
"There wasn't a family or friend that was not affected by this tragedy. Freedom doesn't come without a price and we must always remember that."
"This was a huge tragedy for this regiment but in the indelible spirit of Canada, this regiment rebuilt. In the end it played a significant role in overthrowing the tyrannical Nazi regime,” concluded Brause, who said in an interview for Sun News that criticism of Mountbatten is misplaced, as his vision for a truly combined military operation was thwarted by the British high command.
The 75th was also marked in Ottawa by PM Trudeau.
“As we sit here in the rain, thinking how uncomfortable we must be these minutes as our suits get wet and our hair gets wet and our shoes get wet, I think it’s all the more fitting that we remember on that day, in Dieppe, the rain wasn’t rain — it was bullets,” Trudeau said at the rain-soaked event in Ottawa.
“As we stand here 75 years later with this duty and this act of remembrance, it is all too fitting. Today and every day, we recommit ourselves to the pursuit of peace and justice for all. Today and all days, we remember.” In France, a new monument was unveiled to honour members of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, which also formed part of the Canadian force at Dieppe. Among dignitaries attending the commemoration in France was the mayor of Windsor.
The cost of Dieppe:
Forces amassed in the raid: 4,963 Canadian troops, 50 American Rangers, 1,075 British commandos and 20 inter-Allied commandos along with air support from the RCAF. Casualties: 3,367 Canadian troops killed, wounded or taken prisoner; death toll: 900.
The Dieppe Raid as of 2017:
1. It was discovered just a couple of days before the ceremony in Windsor that there is still one surviving member of the Essex Scottish regiment. Everett Maracle, now 94, lives in Michigan. You can read his story in an article in the Windsor Star at this link:
2. Anyone with family photos or recollections of the Dieppe raid is asked to contact Nicole Chittle, research assistant at Museum Windsor. She is involved in creating a website to bring together all available information about the people and events dealing with the events of 75 years ago.
3. Dieppe gets an entire room at Museum Windsor (the Chimczuk Museum). There is an excellent display of uniforms, photos and artefacts at the Museum, just a few steps away from the Dieppe Gardens where the ceremony was held. This includes items made by many of the Canadian prisoners of war while they were incarcerated by the Nazis. The smaller photo with this article was taken at this exhibit, which opened on Aug. 19, 2017.
Visit this excellent museum before the exhibit ends on Dec. 31:
Photos with this article by C. Cunningham
This book is billed as the "first in-depth study of the attitude of Greek military commanders towards holy ground." Author Dr. Sonya Nevin at the University of Roehampton (London) has identified an important and intiguing element of ancient warfare that certainly deserves such a book-length treatment.
Nevin packs a lot of detail in 200 pages (the remaining 100 pages consists of notes, bibliography and index). Early on she looks at the Persian destruction of Athens in 480 BCE. "As a show of power in their most sacred space, the focal point of their territory, the destruction challenged the Athenian communal identity." The bulk of her attention, however, focuses on how Greeks dealt with temples of other Greeks in their nearly constant warfare against one another. Here I will explore just two of the case studies she considers.
"The most significant encounter with sacred space concerned the sanctuary of Olympian Zeus outside Syracuse," a city I visited in July 2017. The Athenian general Nicias, victorious over the forces of Syracuse, chose not to plunder the sanctuary. Nevin writes that the Greek historian Thucydides "is characteristically enigmatic" about this. Nevin suggests "Thucydides is perhaps asking his readers to consider a difficult question: if a state (or a person) has undertaken to do something unjust (ie the invasion of Sicily), to what extent should they continue to commit injustices in order to see that goal through? ...Strategically, Nicias made a mistake; morally he made the right decision. Thucydides confronts us with the hard choice of what to make of that."
When the Olympic Games were held in 420 BCE, the atmosphere between competing Greek states "had got so bad that the Eleans had more than 2,000 troops ready to defend the sanctuary. The awkwardness this time was not Athens' treatment of its allies, but Sparta's fall-out with Elis," which controlled the area in which the Games were held. Sparta was banned from the Olympics, but Sparta chose not to march their army there, thus averting a crisis. It was, declares Nevin, "a sacrilege too far for a pious people with a reputation to think about."
Likely just a year later, in 419, the sanctuary of Zeus associated with the Nemean Games (held in years the Olympics did not take place) was destroyed. Nevin tells us this only became know to modern scholars through archeaological evidence, as "no Greek tells us what happened...This is a reminder of how selective Thucydides and other ancient historians were about what events they covered. Nonetheless, this seems an extreme example given the intensity of the destruction of a site of Panhellic renown." Why such "blatant sacrilege" was passed over in silence is, Nevin laments, "fundamentally unclear."
Overall, an excellent study of an all-too-often neglected aspect of ancient hostilities. It is unfortunate the book lacks illustrations and maps to help those who are not Greek historians understand the events more fully. Written in an easy manner without the usual heavy adornments of scholarly prose, Nevin has filled an important niche in our understanding of ancient Greek thought and culture.
Military Leaders and Sacred Space in Classical Greek Warfare (307 pages) is $99 from I.B.Tauris.
Dr. James May just retired from a long and distinguished career at St Olaf College in Minnesota. I recently had the privilege of hearing his final Latin oration at the annual meeting of the Classical Association of the MidWest and South, which was held in Kitchener, Ontario.
The 18 essays in this tribute volume cover a vast array of topics from the most technical to pop culture. For example, one deals with the role of satire in refuting Christian heretics in the Byzantine period; while another surveys movies and TV shows that include Cicero as a character. We learn he was in 15 of the 22 episodes of the HBO series Rome, and the chapter even gives us his dialogue!
Closer to what one might look for in a classical book is a close reading of Lucan's depiction of Caesar as a lightning bolt personified, and his battle as said bolt against nature. Sarah Nix does a fine job at portraying the fearsome nature of Caesar's power over nature, especially in his deliberate destruction of a sacred grove to get timber he needed to beseige a town. "Caesar not only approaches the wood but begins to cut it down, demonstrating that he is not only a physical force but a cosmic force as well, able to defy the gods of the grove."
With the concept of truth a daily topic of discussion on cable TV news, the first chapter (by Hilary Bouxsein) shows the eternal relevance of how truth is perceived. She looks at the second half of Homer's Odyssey. While she draws no parallels with current political discourse in the U.S., I believe a close study of her discussion on the rhetoric of honesty will help us understand what is happening now. We learn, for example, how a character can "highlight his supposed honesty" that in reality is "not exactly a claim of truth." The character she looks at, Telemachus, merely "asserts that he is generally fond of speaking the truth." Remind you of anyone?
There are several outstanding chapters, including one (by Jennifer Starkey) on the "man-killing axe" called for by Clytemnestra in the play Libation Bearers by Aeschylus; and an essay by Ann Vasaly on Livy and the benefits of political discord. It is couched in terms of a discussion on Machiavelli's discourse on Livy. "Was Machiavelli right?" asks Vasaly. "Does Livy's history show that disunion made the Roman Republic free and powerful?" She concludes the observations of Machiavelli "are borne out" but qualifies it by highlighting aspects of Livy's presentation that Machaivelli "passes over in silence." A well reasoned and fascinating chapter.
Authors sometimes touch on an element of an argument without exploring it fully. For example, in a discussion of the gods by the 4th century CE writer Isocrates, Terry Papillon quotes him as writing "It is said that even the gods are ruled by Zeus. If the report is true about this, it is clear that they too prefer this government." As both sentences are couched in conditional terms, this is in fact a very weak argument by Isocrates for the promotion of monarchy, but the author does not explore its meaning or implications. Was Isocrates actually saying the opposite of what he appears to be promoting?
Five essays in the book focus on May's classical model: Cicero. What I would like to have seen in the book is an example of May's own writing on Cicero. His bibliography is given, with many Cicero-related papers listed. The inclusion of just one would have been marvellous, especially for those who are not conversant with his body of work.
The Ciceronian chapters address such topics as Cicero's developing ideas of apotheosis (he presents himself as wise and godlike); the dating of the quaestorship of Crassus based in part on the writing of Cicero; and the social propriety of Cicero writing letters during dinner time with friends (One can relate this to texting on the phone in a restaurant in 2017). The book resembles such a Roman banquet with delicacies that may tempt some but be turned down with thanks by others. Enjoy the feast.
Ab omni parte beatus (Blessed from every perspective) is $49 from the publisher Bolchazy-Carducci in Illinois.
The book is edited by Anne Groton
“Something poisonous was brewing in the royal chambers, those few narrow rooms that caused him more toil and trouble than the whole rest of the wide world.”
This line from fairly early in The Red Sphinx encapsulates the motive force that propels this swashbuckling story of 17th century France. The 'him' of this line is none other than Louis XIII, King of France but the poisonous plots apply equally to his chief minister of state, Cardinal Richelieu. It is Richelieu who was the inspiration for the title of this long-lost masterpiece by one of France's greatest authors, Alexandre Dumas. This is in fact the book that all lovers of The Three Musketeers have been waiting for their whole lives.
It begins shortly after the time when the Musketeers book ends. The text was actually published in France in 1865 and 1866 in a weekly magazine, but not published as a book since Dumas never finished the tale. An awful English translation was published in 1868 but quickly sank from view. It was not until 1945 that the original manuscript miraculously was discovered in a Paris garret. This was published in French the following year but it was not until 2017 that this superb English translation appeared. It is true to the words of Dumas, so now the whole world can enjoy his brilliance. A suitable ending has been added here in the form of an 84-page novella The Dove, first published in 1850.
Does The Dove really do the job of wrapping up the story of the Comte de Moret and Isabella Lautrec? asks translator Lawrence Ellsworth (the pen name of L. Schick of Maryland). “I would argue that it does – and in spades,” he replies to his question. While it leaves many loose ends, it does at least resolve the fate of these two central characters in the novel, and as an emotional gripper it doesn't get any better.
Dumas uses the real-life figure Comte de Moret, and his fictional love, Isabella, to weave a tale of derring-do including heroic rescues, swordfights (including duels), secret communications and undercover recon missions worthy of a James Bond movie.
This is a massive novel, weighing in at 800 pages. Fortunately for the reader, it is a page-turner. Dumas maintains a brisk pace throughout most of the book, although some may find his historical digressions to be nothing but padding. Others will welcome it as offering context for the complex international intrigues that permeate the book as various kings and emperors connive and fight for power in Europe.
Minor characters populate the text; their delightful delineation at the hands of such a master novelist are tiny gems in their own right. Chief amongst these are the King's fool l'Angely, who gets to say the most outrageous things to his royal master; Etienne Latil, the ultimate royal supporter and man of the sword; and the Duke of Savoy, against whom war is waged even as he conspires with King Louis' mother Marie de Medici.
While it may not rise to the iconic heights of The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas has bequeathed us a truly excellent novel (with 64 evocative illustrations) which we can all regard as an amazing gift, delivered 150 years late.
The Red Sphinx (807 pages) is $26.95 by Pegasus Books.
Star Trek is very much in the news again: a new Trek TV show will premiere in September. At Windsor ComicCon recently, two stars of previous Trek TV shows made an appearance.
Denise Crosby appeared in several seasons of Star Trek: Next Generation, but she is best known as the young female security officer in the first season. "To be the chief of security in a traditional male role is what the late 1980s were calling out for," she told an audience in Windsor. Until then, Crosby said, women were either portrayed as a "beautiful soft woman, or a hard-assed tough bitch. I was adamant Tasha Yar (her character name) was not perfect. I was always looking for ways to examine her flaws."
Crosby lamented her audition for the role was not videotaped. It was a dual scene with Marina Sirtis, cast as counsellor Deanna Troi. In the audition, Crosby says she was essentially in a therapy session with Troi, worrying that she was never going to be good enough for the top security job. "You were the best in the class," replied Troi. "But Picard (the Captain of the starship) is so great, and such a visionary!" replied Yar.
"Troi was talking Yar back from the edge. Inside of Yar was a dichotomy: this fierce woman and a fragile little girl."
Denise Crosby, grand-daughter of the great singer Bing Crosby, has appeared in yet another major Hollywood franchise: the zombie-infested The Walking Dead. "I need to get on Game of Thrones," she joked. "It would be a trifecta!"
Also appearing at Windsor ComicCon was Garrett Wang, best known for his role as Ensign Kim on Star Trek: Voyager. Wang was far from sanguine that his character was never promoted in the seven years of the TV show. Once he met another fellow named Harry Kim (in real life), who was in the navy when Voyager was on the air in the late 1990s. "He got crap everyday from the crew mates," Wang said, but he tried to commiserate with Kim. "We were the same," he said to the navy man. "No," Kim replied, "I was promoted!"
Wang said in response to all this that his character was "the Rodney Dangerfield of Star Trek, the punching bag of Voyager."
In one episode Ensign Kim got to kiss the alien 7of9, played by the beautiful Jeri Ryan. "We each have full upper and lower lips. It was like two Sealey posturpedic mattresses banging up against one another," he said playfully. The show aired when Wang and Ryan were watching along with her young son, who exclaimed "Mommy kissed Garrett?!"
Wang had various controversial remarks to make on the Trek movies. Nemesis should have been a Voyager film, and Insurrection should have been a DS9 film." He was referring to the final two movies starring the crew of Next Generation, which were both flops. As for the current series of movies, he decried the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan. "The first Klingon he encountered would have broken him over his leg like a popsicle stick," said Wang. "The Rock should have been cast as Khan," a suggestion that elicited a lot of approval from the Windsor audience.
Photos with this article are copyright by C. Cunningham