Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Review and a Give Away

I finished reading The Player's Boy by Bryher the other day. What a fun book it was too. Bryher managed to sustain all the elements she began with that I mentioned back when I first picked up the book. The story is about a player's boy, James Sands, an apprentice whose master has died. While he is a boy he is passed to another master who manages to live until Sands is a young man. But by this time, acting is in disrepute, the Puritans are closing down theaters, the King is weak and won't stand up to Spain, and Walter Raleigh is in the Tower. Theater companies are barely scraping by and Sands, who was never certain that he wanted to be an actor in the first place (he often dreamed of being a page), is kicked out of the company he grew up in. Since he is not a master he is pretty much SOL. Through a twist of fate he ends up as a factor for a well off landowner in the country. He does well for himself but never seems to be in control of his fate. Fate is one of the things the novel is about. When you are buffeted by fate and seem to have no control, how does that affect the way you live your life? Sands is a good boy and a good man, but wonders

When fate flung us about so haphazardly, was either vice or virtue of importance? What difference was there between us and the walnut leaves that this wind was stripping from the neighbouring gardens?
But in spite of the vagaries of fate, Sands is not bitter, just saddened by his losses. He carries regret too over not running off to sea with his best friend Martin. After Martin leaves he never hears from him again and when things aren't going well for Sands he likes to imagine what Martin's fate was. There is a little bit of everything in this book, politics, love, theater, history, thievery, even a sword fight. The Player's Boy was first published in 1953. The language has a pleasantly curious feel of being both solidly contemporary and exotically Elizabethan at the same time. I very much enjoyed the book and would like to have a little drawing to give it away to someone. The book up for grabs is an uncorrected proof (sorry I'm keeping the finished edition on my shelf). It is paperback and a little worn around the edges since I carried it to work in my bike bag. But what is a cover when the insides are good? Since Bryher helped finance publication of many modernist writers, to be eligible to win the book, leave a comment that includes the title of your favorite modernist book (you don't have to be in the US either). Wikipedia can help you if you are stuck for authors. You have until Sunday at 5 central standard time to enter. Good luck!