Current Read: The High Divide by Lin Enger

I loved Undiscovered Country, Lin Enger’s brilliant, modernized retelling of Hamlet, so I’m excited to begin reading his new novel, The High Divide. Enger again revamps a classic tale into a gritty Western story, this time with a post-Civil War version of The Odyssey.

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Hamlet at Festivall

Festivall‘s Shakespeare night was a great success. Those of you who missed the performance of Hamlet by the visiting American Shakespeare Company really missed out on a unique, spectacular evening of entertainment.

The Scottish Rite building was the perfect venue and one I hope gets utilized more in the future, its old-fashioned atmosphere and stadium seating was perfect for the play and the auditorium was packed with an enthusiastic all-ages crowd.

The ASC players doubled as an indie-folk band before the play and during intermission, covering pop hits like “Cups” and “Mad World” in an acoustic, The Decemberists style. More importantly the troupe had a firm grasp of the material as well as the natural comedic abilities to bring out the subtle humorous nuances of the Bard’s drama.

The audience was enraptured from beginning to end and I’m so happy to have been a part of such a dazzling and culturally rich experience. I hope the American Shakespeare Company will be invited back to perform Much Ado About Nothing…and Taming of the Shrew and MacBeth and anything else they’re willing to grace us West Virginians with. Bravo!

Music, Shakespeare, Books, Art & Nature at Festivall This Weekend!

West Virginians have an exciting weekend of arts-related events this weekend thanks to Charleston’s Festivall. We at Muruch will happily attend the following:

Friday, 7pm: Hamlet by The American Shakespeare Co.
The Scottish Rites Center, Capitol Street
Tickets: $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students.
Buy tickets in advance at Taylor Books or at the door

Friday & Saturday, 7:30pm: Romeo & Juliet by The Charleston Ballet
The Civic Center Little Theater
Tickets: Adults $20 in advance, $25 at door; students $15 in advance, $20 at door.Group rates also available.
Buy tickets online, Civic Ctr box office or at the door

Saturday, 8am-5pm: Library Used Book Sale
The Civic Center Little Theater
Free Admittance, books 50ยข-$2

Sunday, 1-4pm: Nature Walk w/ Live Music & Art
Sunrise Carriage Trail

Sunday, 7pm: Kate Miller-Heidke, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Janiva Magness & Storyman at Mountain Stage
Culture Center Theater
Tickets: $15 advance, $20 at the door
Buy tickets online, at Taylor Books or at door

Lin Enger: Undiscovered Country

Lin Enger’s debut novel Undiscovered Country is a modernized retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in small town Minnesota. It’s a shame that the other Minnesota set Hamlet reiteration (the mind-numbingly boring, long winded, and canine obsessed The Story of Edgar Sawtelle) is receiving so much more attention and praise. Undiscovered Country is superior in that it successfully captures the melancholy and dramatic atmosphere of Hamlet, yet the plot is fast paced with characters that are both interesting and human. The novel is so well written that it would be just as compelling even with no allusions to the Bard’s tale.

Undiscovered Country is told in hindsight as the protagonist Jesse records the events surrounding the death of his father during a hunting trip a decade after it happened. While waiting for the coroner to rule on whether the shooting was a suicide or an accident, we are introduced to Jesse’s vamp of a mother Genevieve and his covetous uncle Clay. Like Hamlet, Jesse believes he sees the ghost of his father while we the readers are left to wonder if it is merely a symptom of his own grief stricken madness. The vision plants a suspicion in Jesse’s mind that soon evolves into obsession, and Jesse is driven to seek the truth as well as vengeance from his uncle.

There’s a side plot involving an Ophelia inspired romantic interest, but it’s Jesse’s inner turmoil as well as his interactions with his vixenish mother and possibly villainous uncle that are most riveting. This is the rare novel that contains two climactic scenes – the first and most of tense being the claustrophobic confrontation in Clay’s ice fishing lodge. Whether you’re a Shakespeare fan or not, I recommend Undiscovered Country if you want to read a strong and suspenseful drama.

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