John Sutherland was on Front Row this evening punting his new book How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide and saying some not wildly original but still cogent and welcome things, among them, that reading well is nearly as difficult as writing well - which is very, very difficult, as anyone who has ever tried to write a novel will know. It's like, says Sutherland, picking up the violin and expecting to be able to play it at concert level on the first go. Quite. Ties in nicely with Alvarez and Thoreau. It'll be good to compare it to Harold Bloom's How to Read and Why, which I enjoyed and found useful a few years back. Worth a listen.
The Collins Complete Works of Shakespeare has an introductory essay by Anthony Burgess on Shakespearian (Bryson says -ian, Amis -ean. Infinite are the arguments of mages) theatre. It includes a few paragraphs on pronunciation in Shakespeare's time, and how it has changed, thus making understanding of some of the rhymes and puns difficult for modern readers. AB makes reference to this at least a couple of times in his autobiographies, once by recounting how a demonstration he gave of how Shakespeare originally sounded shocked his academic listeners. There are a couple of mp3 examples given on this page - most interesting.
With Blackadder in mind, I listened to the BBC's - or rather Simon Armitage's - radio dramatisation of The Odyssey this week. It was good to put all those names and episodes which one constantly stumbles across into narrative context (I haven't read the book). Rich use of Yorkshire accents among the sailors, and Yorkshire vocabulary too - "Stop your mithering!" I still have on tape from 20 years ago the radio version of The Golden Ass, which uses Geordie accents in the same way. Odysseus is played by Tim McInnery. He does very good work, and you get used to him, but for the first half-hour or so it's impossible not to visualise Captain Darling, or Lord Percy.