Shakespeare Quotes Translated

I was taking a gander at some Shakespeare today when I realized that he made everything sound much more significant than it really was. I mean, you can take any Shakespeare quote and take it out of his words and it sounds, well, like crap. That was the beauty of Shakespeare. Read on to see what I mean.

Shakespeare: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry" ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "Don't borrow or lend money. Whether you borrow or lend it, you will probably get screwed. Also, loans mess up the economy." (I am not sure on the last bit. He could have meant, "Loans make it harder to breed animals properly" or "Loans make it harder to get married.")

Shakespeare:
"The lady doth protest too much." ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "God, she whines a lot." or "Her protestations lead me to believe that she is hiding something."

Shakespeare: "Brevity is the soul of wit." ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "If the joke isn't short, it isn't funny."

Shakespeare: "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions." ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "When the going gets tough, it keeps getting tougher."

Shakespeare: "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." ~ From As You Like It

Translation: "It takes a smart man to know he is an idiot." (Notice how that one does not make any sense, though it sounds brilliant in Shakespearean. I know someone is going to say, but, but, he means . . . Yeah, I know what he is trying to say. It still means nothing, in a literal sense.)

Shakespeare: "Tempt not a desperate man." ~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "Don't dangle crack in front of a crack head, unless you are willing to get beaten and robbed." or "It's not nice to bring beer to an AA meeting."

Shakespeare: "For you and I are past our dancing days." ~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "We're old."

Shakespeare: "A plague on both your houses." ~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "I hope both of you and both of your families die horrible deaths."

Shakespeare: "O my love, my wife! Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty."
~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "Even though I think you're dead, I still think you're hot."

Shakespeare: "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." ~ From The Merchant of Venice

Translation: "How good of a person you are has no bearing on how successful you will be."

Shakespeare: "As he was valiant, I honor him; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him." ~ From Julius Caesar

Translation: "I liked him, but he was getting greedy, so I had to off him." (Sounds like a line out of The Sopranos.)

Shakespeare: "There's daggers in men's smiles."

Translation: "Just because he's smiling, does not mean he will not shank you."

All translations are my own. Be advised that I only speak limited Shakespearean, so don't expect this list to be relevant or useful. (Like how I saved that for the end?)

Shelly Barclay

Brief Biography of Mark Twain

Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Longhorne Clemens, was a successful American author. (For the purposes of this article, we'll call him Mark Twain, as that is the name he reserved for his readers and we are, presumably, his readers.) Today, Mark Twain is one of the most celebrate authors in American history. His stories represent a time in American history when the Mississippi River was still a place of adventure and slavery was working its way out of the system with which the still new country operated. His most famous works are "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." If you have not read them, perhaps you have heard of the song Tom Sawyer by Rush? Yeah, that will tell you absolutely nothing about his character. In fact, I have still yet to figure out why that song is named after him.

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was born in Florida, . . . Missouri on November 30, 1835. When he was roughly 4-years-old, the Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a town that would later be inextricably linked with the name Mark Twain. This move brought Mark to the river that would play a huge role in his writing career, providing the fodder for both his pen name and his most popular written works - the Mississippi.

After moving to Hannibal, Mark Twain's dad, Judge John Marshall Clemens, built a house that still stands today. He also sent his son to private school. Unfortunately, the judge died about 8 years later of pneumonia. Within the year, Twain had left private school and begun apprenticing with a printer. He apprenticed for two years before going to work at his older brother's newspaper. That lasted until he left for St. Louis at the age of 17.

If you have ever read Twain's Huck and Tom books, you know that, while his stories have a sense of nostalgia, they do not mimic his real childhood. Sure, he derives places and people from his experiences, but neither Tom nor Huckleberry had the upbringing Twain had. However, they do share a certain level of fatherlessness, which may have stemmed from Twain's own lack of a father in his teen years.

After moving to St. Louis, Mark Twain began working as a pilot on the Mississippi River. This job gave him the knowledge of the river that is apparent in some of his work. It also gave him the pen name that we know and love. Mark Twain was a term that he and other riverboaters used to signify a safe water depth for a boat to pass. He apparently enjoyed this job, but it was rendered unnecessary by the Civil War. At the onset of the war, Mark Twain returned to the newspaper biz, this time as a reporter.

In 1865, Mark Twain wrote his first popular story. In 1869, he published the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The following year, he married his wife, Olivia. He went on to travel, write a total of 28 novels and numerous other works. He and his wife had four children, only one of whom survived past her twenties. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, leaving a legacy of literature behind him.

Shelly Barclay

Source

Biography of Mark Twain

Truly New Stories: Are There Any Left?

For these past couple of years, the majority of my reading has included non-fiction and classical literature. I did very little "popular" or new fiction reading. Then, I decided to start crackedspines.com in an effort to provide book reviews, analysis, etc. all in one place on everything that I read. That led me to try moving out of my comfort zone and start reading some new novels to provide other readers with more than just non-fiction and classic book reviews. As the title suggests, the road has been a little bumpy.

My first endeavor into popular fiction was the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. It went better than expected, but it still left me with a sense of deja vu. Yes, deja vu. I am starting to feel like I have read everything before. It is very difficult for novelists to come up with anything refreshing these days and it is hardly their fault, but it makes my endeavors into "new" fiction rather boring. I have put down at least three books and never bothered to pick them back up again since I have started this. I know there is uncharted territory left in the literary world. What I want to know is why none of us writers ventures there anymore.

You may want to mention the fact that I am always talking about how much I love classical literature. The thinking being that I am already reading stale novels. Why am I not complaining about them? The thing is, classical literature is not stale. Most of the novels I read were written by men and women who took literature places it really had not been before, at least not in the English language. It is not the same old boring thing. It is the original. Take, for example, the vampire novel *gag.* Why is Dracula still so much better to me than newer vampire novels? It is better because Bram Stoker was being daring and you can feel it in his writing. He was not writing something tried, tested, and likely to rake him in a few bucks. He was a pioneer. Today, you can feel the lack of pioneering spirit in 90% of new novels. At least, that is my experience.

So, I am on a quest for a novel that is taking literature to the next level. In other words, like most readers, I am looking for the next Dune, Dracula, Frankenstein, Great Expectations, Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. I am looking for a novel that makes me feel like I am going somewhere I have never been before. I want to provide you with a review or analysis of a gem that is just waiting to be found among the heaps of new rubbish. I do not want to read something the writer knew was safe. I want something dangerous. I want a book that pushes the boundaries. However, I do not want to read a book that pushes boundaries for the sake of pushing boundaries. I want a book that pushes boundaries because that is where the writer's imagination pushed the writer. I want to find a writer who dares to put his or her unhindered story on paper. By unhindered I mean unimpeded by the expectations of the reader. You, if you are a true reader and lover of the written word, know exactly what I mean. Oh, and if you find it, please post the name in the comments section. I want to read it desperately.

Shelly Barclay

Just After Sunset by Stephen King

I cracked the spine of Stephen King's short story anthology Just After Sunset a few days (maybe a week) ago. After the first story, Willa, I decided to write a review of each story in the book. I did so with Willa (not King's best short story), but then decided (unconsciously) that doing a review of every short story in the book would impede my reading. In other words, the stories got better after Willa and I just did not want to put the book down long enough to write these reviews. So, here is a review of Just After Sunset by Stephen King as a whole.

In general, I prefer Stephen King novels to short stories. That is not at all because Stephen King is not a maestro with short stories. He has written a few doozies in his day. My reason for liking his novels more is most likely the depth to the story. It is hard to cram epic Stephen King stories into a few pages. At least, I am sure Mr. King would say it is hard. Stories like the Dark Tower series and The Stand would never do as short stories. That being said, King is able to take a few pages and turn them into something creepy, mysterious and/or wonderful. Just After Sunset is nearly filled with these kinds of stories.

Of all the stories in Just After Sunset, three are my favorites. They are also among the longest in the book, proving my weakness for longer King stories. The first is the story of a woman who is in pain and uses that pain to make herself stronger. Her newfound strength comes in handy when she is attacked by a lunatic. Another is the story of a psychiatrist who is haunted by an OCD patient's problems so much that he begins displaying them himself. The question is, were they both nuts or was there something to their strange manifestation of OCD? Lastly, there was the story of a man whose neighbor tries to kill him in a very disgusting way. Stephen King taps into a common fear with that one.

These three stories alone make Just After Sunset worth reading. Couple them with all of the other stories in King's anthology and you have what makes me keep coming back for more Stephen King - a book you do not want to put down.

Shelly Barclay

Ten Things I Hate About Reading

Typically, I am the last person you will hear say (or see write) anything bad about reading. I practically live in books sometimes (which says a lot of sad things about me). I just love reading. However, it dawned on me that there are some things about reading that I just do not like.

1. Books do not come with signs you can dangle from the front that say, "I'm reading, which means I don't want to talk to you."

2. You cannot read while you drive.

3. Most people, including myself, cannot read while they work. Unless, like in my case, we read what we are writing.

4. When you love a book so much that you feel like you must read more about the characters, setting, etc., the book does not automatically asexually reproduce a sequel for you. In fact, neither do the writers. Yes, I am pissed at every writer who ever failed to write a sequel to my favorite books before dying. How dare they die when I still have reading I want to do?

5. Reading in the bar makes people think I am crazy.

6. More people talk to me when I am reading at the bar than when I am not.

7. Reading makes me lose hours - lots and lots of hours.

8. I love reading so much that I feel compelled to write about it, which causes me to lose more hours.

9. One of the biggest gripes I have with reading is that most people do not do enough of it. I cannot pretend that I care too much about their intellect or whether they are becoming mentally numbed by technology. It just irks me when I read something awesome and I have no one to talk to about it. (Maybe I need more friends.)

10. The last thing that irks me about reading is that I have never and will never have enough time to read every book that I want to read.

If there is anything about reading that irks you sometimes, feel free to add it in the comments. Sometimes it feels good to complain about the things we love the most. Just ask parents and dieters.

Shelly Barclay

First Person Plural by Cameron West

First Person Plural by Cameron West is a powerful non-fiction novel about abuse, repressed memories and, above all, dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities). West was diagnosed with the disorder as an adult. This book chronicles the first few years of Cameron's illness. The entire book is written in first person x 24. It is really Cameron telling the story, but you get to see what many of his "guys" have to say. What they have to say is terrifying, touching and horribly sad.

In First Person Plural, Cameron West introduces himself during a time in his life when he is very ill and is trying to maintain healthy relationships with his wife and son. He has not yet been diagnosed with DID. He suffers from a sinus condition that has nearly cost him his life. Cameron later finds out that it could have been solved by a simple allergy test. He learns to avoid eating things that trigger his sinus problems and he gradually gets better. The reader cannot help but cheer on this unassuming, obviously kind and hurting man as he starts to get better.

Unfortunately, Cameron West does not stay better for long. He ends up on a mental rollercoaster, which he conveys in a personal, revealing and undeniably readable fashion. From the moment Cam begins to feel a little strange, the book is extremely difficult to put down. Anyone who has any kind of empathetic feelings will need a box of tissues while they turn page after page hoping for some salvation for Cam, Clay, Per, Dusty, Mozart and the rest of "my guys."

One of the things that grab you the most about First Person Plural is how badly Cameron wants to keep his family and have a life, despite his newly found memories of sexual abuse. His plight is the mental equivalent of a quadriplegic wanting to find a way to walk properly again. He takes the reader on his path to a better life, one where he has to except that he will never "walk" properly again, but he will walk. He will also have his wife and son alongside him if he chooses to accept the pieces of his personality that choose to live a separate existence.

A lesser writer would have taken the context of Cam's life and made it seem like trashy V.C. Andrews vitriol. Cameron West reminds the reader that this is not drama; it is his reality. People really are hurt this deeply and need help this badly. People who look, talk or act funny because of a mental illness are not jokes, liars or "nuts." Chances are, they are normal people like you, who had something terrible happen to them and/or their brain is malfunctioning. Cameron's first person plural perspective shows us what it would be like to be that person and it hurts, badly.

Shelly Barclay

Skeleton Lake by Mike Doogan

This latest book review comes again from a wonderful contributing author, Maranatha. I have not read this book, but I am sure Maranatha gave you an honest opinion of it. You can learn more about Skeleton Lake by reading Maranatha's review here.

Willa by Stephen King from Just After Sunset

So, I just cracked the spine of Stephen King's Just After Sunset. Truth be told, I am an unapologetic fan of Mr. King's work. It has kept me company for most of my life and I never cease to turn to it when I want something to read that I know I will like. Therefore, I know I am going to like at least some of the stories in Just After Sunset, if not love them. As for the first story, Willa, I was not overly impressed.

Willa starts as the story of a man whose wife has left the little station where they were waiting for a train. He goes out looking for her and learns an astonishing truth when he finds her. Truth be told, there simply was not enough build up to this revelation for it to be truly shocking or even enjoyable. I was unable to relate to the characters, due to a lack of depth. Nonetheless, the story was a Stephen King story and so it was not terrible by a long shot. It simply was not . . . enthralling.

I will keep this review short, as Willa itself is very short. I will add that there is some imagery in the story that is creepy, so it makes it readable (of course). Oh, and one cannot forget the token creepy little girl . . .

Shelly Barclay

A look at Courage in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

In many ways, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a novel about courage. At the very least, courage is one of the central themes. Nearly every individual displays some kind of courage or another. Furthermore, many of the characters display the sort of courage that inspires the reader to be a better person. In some cases, the characters are so courageous as to be almost unbelievable. However, any person who is familiar with the time period in which To Kill a Mockingbird is set, will know that the type of bravery portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird was necessary in the U.S. at the time. Therefore, it was relatively commonplace, though not nearly enough. Here are just a few examples of courage in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

There are three children in To Kill a Mockingbird who can certainly be considered brave. They are Jem and Scout Finch and Dill Harris. Jem and Scout bravely defend their father, while he goes against the wishes of nearly every citizen in Maycomb (the small southern town that the novel is set in). There are many other examples of their bravery throughout the novel, but their defense of their father is a common theme. Dill is a wayward boy who likes to make up stories to make himself look grander and who has a very confusing home life. His courage comes from that very act. Sure, lying is not the most moral thing to do. However, Dill does it to keep his head above the water in order to be happier than he might be without his grandiose dreams and stories. His courage is that which is needed to move forward in life.

One of the most courageous and respectable characters in To Kill a Mockingbird is Atticus Finch, Jem and Scout's father. Atticus is a lawyer who is defending a black man accused of raping a young Maycomb girl. His client did not do it and Atticus seems to know it. He is determined to seek justice to the best of his ability, despite the fact that he is being targeted for his anti-racist views. Atticus Finch is one of the most courageous characters in the history of fiction.

There are three neighbors of the Finch's who are also very brave, in their own unique ways. They are Boo Radley, Maudie Atkinson and Mrs. Lafayette Dubois. Boo Radley was a recluse; no one was sure why. However, when he was needed by the Finch children, he left his house to help, despite his reasons for hiding in his home literally all the time. Maudie Atkinson displayed her courage by being outspoken, fearless and yet extremely kind. Mrs. Lafayette Dubois was a different kind of courageous. She was cantankerous, rude, bigoted and spiteful. However, it is shown that her attitude had a lot to do with her addiction to morphine, which she struggles painfully to kick during the last days of her life.

Two other brave characters from To Kill a Mockingbird who are worth mentioning are Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson. Mayella is the young girl who has wrongfully accused Tom of rape. Her actions are unforgivable. However, her character is courageous. She was really being raped by her father and yet she stood strong for her younger siblings, who she was raising. She is both a villain and a hero. Tom is the brave soul who has been forced to accept his fate. His courage lies in his acceptance of the fact that a black man is not going to get a fair trial in Maycomb.

Within these characters lies the rich vein of courage that runs prominently through Harper Lee's only novel, the masterpiece that is To Kill a Mockingbird. Each one of them could have carried a novel of their own. Together, they carry one of the best American novels ever written.

Shelly Barclay

The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft

In Cracked Spines' first H.P. Lovecraft review, we discussed the short story The Statement of Randolph Carter. Today, we are going to look at Lovecraft's haunting short story The Outsider. This story is often touted as one of Lovecraft's best, though, like the narrator is this story, I find it difficult to describe. Therefore, there will be very little summary with this review. You will just have to read and interpret The Outsider for yourself.

The Outsider is narrated by a male person (whether he is still a boy, a teen, an adult or an old man is unclear). This person has no idea how he came to be where he is and knows little of his own circumstances. All we (and he) know is that he has been in a dank old castle for as long as he can remember. He knows very little about human contact or even he has ever had such a thing. My reaction to this character was to feel sorry for the sensory deprivation to which he appears to have been subjected to for the whole of his life.

H.P. Lovecraft has created a desperate creature in his narrator of The Outsider. Naturally, the narrator wants to escape to a place where there is light and freedom. However, the reader soon realizes that there is nothing natural about his prison. Lovecraft's description of The Outsiders attempt at freedom brought to mind Dali paintings for some reason. I suppose the unreality of his surroundings combined with the seemingly inescapable nature of his surroundings is equated with surrealist paintings in my mind.

Things only get worse for Lovecraft's hopeful and hopeless narrator. All I can say is that there is no way to imagine that his plight is a happy one, no matter how vague it is to the reader. This story is much like The Masque of Red Death in that one does not know the horror the characters, or in this case the character, endures, but you can guess. In my mind, and each of you will have your own interpretation, our narrator is trapped in something of a house of mirrors. He may be able to peep out and scare those who truly live, but he is but an outsider who will inevitably be brought back into his prison due to his own strangeness.

Shelly Barclay

The Statement of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft

I must start this review by saying a few words about the author. I do this because you must know before reading this review that H.P. Lovecraft awes me. In this writer's mind, Lovecraft is a maestro of the written word. His mastery of the English language, particularly as it pertains to morbid adjectives, knows only one equal - Edgar Allen Poe. If you were to take any given paragraph written by Lovecraft and compare it to any given paragraph by myself and compare them it would be tantamount to comparing Da Vinci's Madonna of the Rocks to a toddler's scribbling in crayon upon his mother's wall. Therefore, not only am I unfit to judge Lovecraft's writings, but I am biased due to the reverence with which I view this H.P. Lovecraft. Fortunately, I am audacious enough to try. This will not be my only attempt, either. You will be seeing quite a few of these Lovecraft reviews in the coming days.

H.P. Lovecraft's The Statement of Randolph Carter is a very short, very enigmatic story. It is, as the title suggests, the statement of a man named Randolph Carter. After reading for a moment or two, the reader comes to realize that Randolph Carter is being questioned about the disappearance of his friend Harley Warren. The reader is not privy to any questions he has been asked or who is questioning him. The entirety of the story is Carter's statement regarding what he remembers taking place before the abovementioned disappearance.

Randolph Carter explains that he and Harley Warren were investigating something that the reader must assume is paranormal in nature. The investigation was mostly Warren's doing, with Randolph acting as something of an assistant. Warren takes Carter to an ancient graveyard in the woods. He says only that he is seeking something terrible and that he wishes for Carter to keep a safe distance. Lovecraft never once describes precisely what Warren is seeking, nor what he finds. We only know that Warren was unable to help his friend and whatever entity they were seeking told Randolph Carter that Harley Warren is dead. The entity does not reveal itself to Carter at this time, but he may have later. Carter had no recollection beyond the moment he learns of his friend's demise.

H.P. Lovecraft never reveals what happened to Harley Warren or Randolph Carter for that matter. He never says what was lurking in that graveyard or if Carter was able to contain it before he got away. For all the reader knows, the entity or entities was let loose and could be stalking Randolph Carter as he speaks. The absence of a description of the horror that these two men came upon makes it almost worse than any horror that can be described. Such is the mastery of H.P. Lovecraft.

Shelly Barclay

The Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

As a lover of horror fiction, Stephen King is something of a god to me. Throughout my reading life, he has cranked out novel after novel for my reading pleasure. Nary a year has passed when Stephen King has not infused my mind with horror. Therefore, it never ceases to surprise me when I find old school Stephen King books that I have not read. Every time I find and read one, I think, "That is it. I have read every Stephen King novel." Then he writes something else or I find some other, long-forgotten Stephen King horror story. Such was the case yesterday when I stumbled upon Stephen King's The Cycle of the Werewolf in my local library. I cracked the spine the moment I got home and finished within the hour. As with most Stephen King writings, I enjoyed it.

The Cycle of the Werewolf is one of Stephen King's short novels. However, it is highlighted by illustrations by none other than Berni Wrightson. For those of you who are not nerds (you should be), Berni Wrightson is a comic book and horror illustrator. The book was published in November of 1983. I was one-year-old at the time. I cannot believe I just found this book!

It is an understatement to say that werewolves never scared me. Maybe it is my love of dogs, but of all the supernatural monsters out there, werewolves seemed the least threatening and most comic to me. Thanks for changing that, Stephen King. The Cycle of the Werewolf is not the scariest Stephen King novel by a long shot, but he took one of the scariest creatures in the world and made it a werewolf to boot. (Spoiler alert) The book's werewolf is a minister! I know, scary.

Stephen King has always had a way of making the supernatural more human. He takes horrifying situations and does not produce superheroes to combat them. He takes flawed, small town people and makes them victims and heroes, but no one is perfect. Even the hero has his own very human problems. In this case, the hero is a little boy who is confined to a wheelchair for life. However, this boy has the nerve to stand up to the wereminister who is terrorizing his town.

It is always nice to get a lengthy Stephen King novel, but The Cycle of the Werewolf was satisfying in its brevity. It was broken up into twelve parts, each representing a month. The action was nearly constant and the end was not long in coming. It was like a Stephen King quickie, or nooner, if you will. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you get a chance to crack the spine of The Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, let me know what you thought about it in the comments section.

Shelly Barclay

Haunted Massachusetts by Thomas D'Agostino

Haunted Massachusetts by Thomas D'Agostino is a "non-fiction" book about haunted places in Massachusetts. Before I go any further, I have to admit to Cracked Spines' readers that I am an unabashed skeptic. I have seen things that I could have easily written off as paranormal, but I do not believe for a second that it was. I believe that those who claim to have seen ghosts are doing what I refused to do - explaining away perfectly normal things by attributing them to lost spirits. That being said, I love a good ghost story. Having been born and raised in Massachusetts, it is hard for me not to be interested in ghost stories, especially historic ones and Haunted Massachusetts is full of them.

Sadly, Haunted Massachusetts by Thomas D'Agostino was very predictable for me. It contained an awful lot of "orb" talk and unconfirmed rumors that explained supposed hauntings. For me, that is not enough. I have taken plenty of pictures with orbs in them - none in places that are so much as rumored to be haunted. I could easily concoct a story about a dastardly deed that was committed in one of these innocuous places and poof! you have a ghost story. You are going to have to do better than that, Mr. D'Agostino.

Now, Thomas D'Agostino did pick up on the fact that you do not have to rely on rumors to write a good book about hauntings in Massachusetts. Enough bad things have happened in this commonwealth without making stuff up. We have Salem, the home of the Salem Witch Trials. We have Boston, which is also connected to the Salem Witch Trials and has been the scene of countless murders on top of an American Revolution battle or two. Haunted Massachusetts touches on some of these places where confirmed murders have taken place. Are they haunted? I doubt it, but the energy the history of these places gives off almost guarantees that people will think they are.

If you are a ghost enthusiast, this book is so-so. It contains a lot of good locations and information about how to get there, but you could get a guidebook for that. I would prefer a Stephen King book, for to me, Haunted Massachusetts might as well be labeled fiction for the amount of rumor to be found within.

Shelly Barclay

Tsar by Peter Kurth

Tsar by Peter Kurth is a non-fiction book that highlights the lives of the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia. Also included are the tragic lives of their children. The book is highly researched and well-written, but the main draw is the amazing photographs that are included within the book. Seeing the beautiful, innocent children of the last Tsar and knowing that they were ruthlessly murdered will help readers to realize the cruelty that tore this family apart.

Read Shelly Barclay's review of Tsar by Peter Kurth.

Analysis and Review of The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen is the story of Sofonisba Anguissola - a female Renaissance painter. Alongside her story is that of Elisabeth de Valois and King Philip II of Spain. There is a bit about Michelangelo and his apprentice Tiberio Calcagni. Most of the plot of the story is pure fiction, though the people, places and some of what takes place is fact, as far as the historical account of things goes.

The Creation of Eve begins with Sofonisba Anguissola learning her trade from Michelangelo alongside Tiberio Calcagni. Most of the story Lynn Cullen creates surrounding this period in Sofonisba's life is conjecture and fiction. As far as we know, Sofonisba Anguissola's training with Michelangelo was very limited and brief. Furthermore, there is no historical record of her even meeting Tiberio Calcagni, let alone having a love affair with him. The story of their love affair is central to the plot of most of The Creation of Eve and it almost certainly never took place.

Characters in the book also make accusations against Michelangelo, saying that Tiberio was his lover. While Michelangelo may have been homosexual and certainly wrote love poetry to men, Tiberio was not necessarily the recipient of these poems. Tiberio meets his end at the hand of Inquisitors in The Creation of Eve. In reality, the cause of his death is unknown. If he was accused of a crime and died at the hand of Inquisitors, there would likely be a record of it.

Because of all these glaring inaccuracies, The Creation of Eve should not be taken as an accurate historical account. It is well written and intriguing because of these famous characters, but it is almost offensive in the liberties Lynn Cullen takes with the lives of these people. Long dead or not, portraying their lives as utterly shameful (by Renaissance standards) is a little off putting, at least to me it is.

In the Creation of Eve, Sofonisba Anguissola leaves Michelangelo because she has had sexual relations with Calcagni. As far as we know, she left because Michelangelo was little more than an acquaintance. Anguissola put a lot of stock in her virginity and most likely did not give it up before she was married. Soon after she completes all of her training, she goes to the Spanish Court to act as lady in waiting and painting instructor to Elisabeth de Valois. This is accurate. In fact, a lot of what happens in the Spanish Court part of The Creation of Eve is accurate. The characters, some of the drama and the disease suffered by Elisabeth are real. However, much intrigue is not.

Lynn Cullen creates an affair between Elisabeth de Valois and King Philip II's "bastard" half brother, Don Juan. This most likely did not take place and certainly did not take place as Lynn Cullen describes it in The Creation of Eve. Don Juan may have loved Elisabeth, but there is no record of it other than an argument that reportedly took place at Elizabeth's funeral. There is also a similarity between one of Elisabeth's daughters and Don Juan. This could be explained by the fact that he was the girl's uncle.

The Creation of Eve is an enjoyable book when taken as fiction. However, those looking for historically accurate portrayals of the people therein should look further than Lynn Cullen's writing.

Shelly Barclay