Yes, the blog is back after a two-and-a-half week absence, during which its author visited the great Pacific Northwest to eat salmon and Dungeness crab and fried oysters and to sit spellbound by the magic worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Six plays in three days with no ill effects, although I may never stop marveling at the festival's absolutely stunning contemporary production of Hamlet, the best I've ever seen, and yes, that includes the Laurence Olivier film. That's the fantastic Dan Donahue with the sword up there as the melancholy Dane, inadvertently ending Laertes' life. I wish I could fly back out and see it again.
The festival is a paradise for Shakespeare fanatics (me); when I saw people trying to scalp tickets to Merchant of Venice, I knew that Ashland was the place for me. Also saw a rollicking Henry IV Part 1 and a very funny Twelfth Night, a creepy stage production of Throne of Blood (based on the Akira Kurosawa film, which is based on MacBeth), a delightful Pride and Prejudice and the musical She Loves Me, on which the films You've Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime and The Old Curiousity Shop were based.
I didn't spend my entire vacation seated in the outdoor Elizabethan theater, however. Also did a bit of reading on the trip. First up was Benjamin Black's Christine Falls, an excellent noir mystery set in 1950s Dublin, starring the requisite drunken Irish protagonist (Black is in reality award-winning author John Banville). Then, because I absolutely had to buy something at the new Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle - it has moved from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill - I bought and read David Nicholls' modern romance One Day, which was charming until it broke my heart. Damn you, Nicholls! Also liked the more serious A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert and spent the flight back across the country immersed in Michael Connelly's upcoming The Reversal, which is terrific and much better than his last novel 9 Dragons.