A Brit a Day [#915]

OK, I got all kindsa things to say about this picture.  1] Spoiler Alert!  Henry V dies!  But an even bolder choice on the part of the BBC production was to open the play with a sequence from King Henry’s funeral, thus making the whole of the action a flashback–brilliant.  2] Seeing Tom Hiddleston playing the dead king is one of the most beautiful and disturbing things I’ve ever seen–he’s my New Favorite Corpse [NFC]; and finally, 3] What is going on with the two crowns here?  Was there a special lying-down crown made for not poking the back of his head?  I guess it would be difficult to play dead if you are wincing from the pain of your crown.  “Uneasy lies the head…”  In any event, it seems to be a serious matter for the two costumers on set.  And Hiddleston hasn’t even broken character as he lifts his head.  How DO you get in character to play a dead monarch?

A Brit a Day [#888]

Meet Lauren Fox, author of at least 2 novels and this brilliant short story that I stumbled upon on Salon.com the other day:


Now here’s a huuuuuge stretch–Lauren gets to be Brit of the Day by virtue of being married to a guy from Dublin.  I know that’s beyond suspect as Britishness goes, but I just had to get her onto this blog.  After all, this blog started off as a platform for my own short stories a million years ago, and you see how far that got.  People like Lauren remind me that there are enough awesome writers out there, writing about the things that needle at me, that I don’t have to add my warbling voice to the many others who are singing the song in tune.

Here is how Lauren describes herself on her website:

I was born in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, into a family full of love, support, and very little grist for the dramatic mill. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer, and decided that my best bet was to make stuff up. My first attempts at fiction included a tragic story about a blind Mexican orphan, and a tragic tale about a horse who dies, tragically, in a barn fire. 

 By the time I got to college and enrolled in a few creative writing classes, I learned the adage, “write what you know,” and began churning out stories about the unhappy love lives of young, thin-skinned, near-sighted, sarcastic, curly haired girls. My first published short story, which appeared in a nationally distributed college magazine, used the structure of the game show Jeopardy! to trace the demise of a relationship. (I’ll take ‘the slow erosion of my self-esteem’ for $200, Alex.) I was pleased that I had finally created fiction out of my two favorite pastimes: tv-watching and borderline obsessive pining over unavailable men. 

 After college I moved around a bit, living in Washington, DC and then for a while back in Madison, Wisconsin, bravely conducting field research for my stories about lonely women in their twenties who can’t find a date. In graduate school in Minneapolis, I took a brief detour from fiction and began writing about my family’s history and the Holocaust, which was fun. 

 When I was twenty-six, I met a nice boy from Dublin who put an end to my anthropological studies of loneliness and heartbreak. Luckily, I had gathered enough material to last for a while.

In other words, sisters, she opens her heart and our story spills out.

A Brit a Day [#864]

I’ve been reading Albert Speer’s lengthy autobiography “Inside the Third Reich.”  One thing that makes the book tolerable [I’m not a big fan of books by crooks] is that Speer is no apologist–he may not have been a sycophant to the extent of some of the others in Hitler’s entourage, but he freely admits that he allowed himself to be an idiot disposed by denial and wishful thinking.  At least that’s what I’m hearing.

But getting beyond that, I must say that the book is fascinating, and my jaw is sore from all the dropping at the extent of Hitler’s megalomania.  Um, really, people around the Fuehrer, did you not notice what was going on?  Could you not see that it would end badly?  Does it really take the hindsight of a time lord to do that?

A Brit a Day [#860]

Cassandra Austen was Jane Austen’s sister, and I made her acquaintance through the wonderfully disturbing movie ‘Miss Austen Regrets.’  Here is Cassandra’s rendering of Henry IV for her sister’s manuscript “The History of England.”  If you are wondering why Prince Hal’s dad looks so ill-suited for life in the 14th century, read on–

The two Austen girls were also tutored at home in drawing and the piano. In 1791, Cassandra produced a series of circular illustrations of British monarchs for Jane’s manuscript The History of England, which are noted to have resembled members of the Austen family more than royalty. [Wikipedia]

If you’ d like to read more about the Austen girls’ manuscript, go here–


A Brit a Day [#817]

Tom Hiddleston from BBC’s ‘The Hollow Crown’.

“I feel like one who has suddenly awakened out of a feverish delirium, or like a shipwrecked man who has for many days battled with the waves that momentarily threatened to devour him and finally has found a safe shore.”

           –Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs, 1870

A Brit a Day [#692]

I just finished reading Beryl Bainbridge’s novel, The Birthday Boys, an account of Robert Falcon Scott’s tragic march to the South Pole told in turns from the point of view of the five men who died there.  Here is an excerpt from the final section, the words of Captain Titus Oates as Bainbridge imagines them–

And of course that black flag told them that Roald Amundsen and his party of Norwegian explorers had beaten them to the Pole.

The photo of Scott in his Antarctic expedition hut can be opened in another window and examined for incredible detail.  My god, you can almost smell the penguins!

By the by, Beryl Bainbridge was an incredibly talented but unsung author.  She died last year at only 77 of cancer.  Send up some love to her spirit some time by reading one of her books, this one for example, or perhaps An Awfully Big Adventure.

A Brit a Day [#663]

A week ago, I saw Daniel Craig [today’s guest Brit] and Rooney Mara in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’  It starts to get confusing with the novel in my head as well as the Swedish language film and both of its sequels and now this, but I think I liked it a lot.  I especially liked this scene and how scared Craig’s character was to have her stitch him up.  But for me, the best thing about the movie was Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’s soundtrack.  And guess what? Atticus Ross is English.  More on that tomorrow.

A Brit a Day [#642]

My daughter is reading ‘The Scarlet Letter’ right now, and–I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–the first time I saw this character my mind screamed ‘Arthur Dimmesdale!’  There is so much repressed sexuality communicated by those slivers of white collar and cuff…by all those buttons.