Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Crucible

I've completed another of my infamous "WOE" readings ("While Otherwise Engaged"...i.e. bathroom reading). This time it was The Crucible, the classic play by Arthur Miller. I chose this one because my high school son had performed the role of Thomas Putnam in the school play last year and the story was intriguing enough for me to pursue reading the actual source material. He also had to read it for school and since I like to read the great classics for WOE reading, it seemed the perfect option.

This, I believe, is the first play I've read since my own high school years. I think I prefer normal prose. I don't especially care for reading the character name in front of who is saying what all the time...it messes up the illusion of what the characters are saying. Plays also tend to be almost entirely dialogue (duh) with only some minimal stage direction so anything that is not said aloud is left to the imagination. I don't "see" where the characters are standing or moving in relationship with each other, etc. and my mind tends to picture a stage instead of a room, or village, or gallows, etc. It therefore introduces an artificiality that wouldn't be present in a normal story. And finally, I had just seen the play itself so I was picturing those actors (all high school students) in the major roles. Once again this makes it more difficult to suspend disbelief.

So, I have determined that when reading a play one should not compare it to the experience of reading a novel or short story. One should appreciate it for the medium that it is. The story itself, for those who don't know, concerns the era of the Salem Witch Trials, and it exposes the hipocracy and downright absurdity of such a thing. Mr. Miller wrote this play in the early 1950's as a response to McCarthyism, and the parallels are intriguing. In fact, Mr Miller, himself, was to be questioned by the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities and was actually found in contempt of Congress for failing to identify others at meetings he attended. Such is the central theme of this play as well. It isn't enough that the character of John Proctor bows to the pressure and confesses to his own involvement with "witches" but stops short of confessing for others.

I found the play a fairly quick read but absorbing none-the-less. (No Charmin jokes here please). It has taken me quite some time to complete, however, due to my 3-week trip to Africa as well as a slew of Reader's Digests and my new subscription to "The Smithsonian" Magazine. Alas, my WOE reading productivity may will suffer in future months.
What's next for WOE? If history is a guide then it will be Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing because my son has the lead role in that this fall. However, since I've already read the complete works of William Shakespeare (yes, WOE), it will have to be something else.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire