Amazon Warehouse Deal Year-End Close-Out Books

Right after Christmas, Amazon had a year-end Warehouse Deal close-out with additional discounts on refurbished, open box, and returned merchandise. So, while the rest of the world shopped electronics and stuff, I went hunting books.

Here’s what I found: Alexandra Shepard & Phil Withington’s Communities in Early Modern England (2000), Jonathan Bate and Dora Thornton’s Shakespeare: Staging the World (2012), and Samuel Schoenbaum’s William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life (1987). My total, including a 2” binder I needed, was less than $20. Any one of those books would have cost that much – such a deal!

Amazon Warehouse Deal bargain books, front covers.
My finds in the Amazon year-end Warehouse Deal close-out sale. All this and a binder for under $20!

These Amazon Warehouse Deals were one-offs, so you can’t find them now. You might find the same titles in different conditions, and of course you could always buy them new.

I’ve had mixed luck with Amazon’s in-house Warehouse Deals. Once I bought a mechanical keyboard that, despite the “inspected” tag, had a permanently jammed space bar and missing pieces. Fortunately, returning it was easy, and Amazon even paid the return shipping.

Communities in Early Modern England was rated Used – Very Good, with a note about a small wrinkle/bend on back cover. I had to look twice to see it. The Schoenbaum was rated Used – Good, with notes about medium wrinkles/bends and cuts/scratches on the front cover, and medium wrinkled/bent pages. I think it’s graded accurately, and am well satisfied with my purchase. The big hardcover book was a surprise, as I’d expected a paperback. It was rated Used – Like New. But, the sleeve is more than a bit ripped, and the front cover and flyleaf has broken apart from the first interior signature. Still, at $3.40 for this particular copy, I’m content to believe that the condition rating was a keystroking error on someone’s part. A little tape, and it’ll be fine for my purposes albeit too heavy to read in bed.

Amazon Warehouse Deal books, backs
That middle book was listed as “Like New,” but for $3.40 I’m OK with it.

Taken all in all, I’d say Amazon’s warehouse deal books are a little worse for the wear compared to what I typically receive from other online sellers of used books (including those that sell through Amazon), but the knock-down prices and free two-day shipping made it worthwhile.

The one I’m most excited to dig into is Shepard & Withington’s Communities in Early Modern England. It’s a scholarly collection of interdisciplinary essays exploring three aspects of community: networks, place, and rhetoric. Work intervenes, though, and as this is purely recreational reading I’ll have to wait a bit before wading in.

The Importance of Being Exton

I’ve seen a half-dozen productions of Richard II both live and (mostly) on DVD, and in most the knight Piers Exton, Richard’s killer, is swapped out for or combined with another character, most often Aumerle. I suspect two directorial motivations. First, to trim the cast. Second, to avoid having the play’s climactic Big Event occur at the hands of a character who is, at most, a silent background extra until more than half-way though Act V.

While the Exton/Aumerle swap adds a frisson of betrayal at the end, it’s a betrayal that to me usually rings hollow. Moreover, it misses two key points that I think are central to the play.

First, that threats to political stability don’t always come from major political players. While Henry Bolingbroke occupies most of the play’s – and Richard’s – attention, Bolingbroke doesn’t so much threaten the existing political order as represent its continuation. Even the dynastic line remains unbroken. Bolingbroke, arguably already heir to the throne, deposes. But Exton, a nobody out of nowhere, disposes.

Historically, a young Richard II faced down the Peasant’s Revolt, an uprising of relative sociopolitical nonentities who were treated as such – and worse – as soon as they were deceived and crushed. Having a minor character kill Richard both echoes and closes that earlier revolt.

Second – and, as a writer today I think this is the more-important point – Richard’s death at Exton’s hands shines a spotlight on the underbelly of political dialogue. It demonstrates how idle comments that may have been made by influencers (the audience has only Exton’s recollection, after all), including leaders but also including, oh, playwrights, can provoke unwanted violence from unexpected quarters. Exton’s importance lies in his unimportance.

Bolingbroke himself identifies this tremendous power very early in the play: “Four lagging winters and four wanton springs/End in a word; such is the breath of kings.” (1.3.214-215)

I don’t think these are especially prescient points for Shakespeare to have made. After all, politics has been going on for a long, long time, and the fundamental issues are simply evergreen. But each generation discovers the truths anew for itself.

Ad Blog posts inspired by literature

Work and real life does interfere with my literary pursuits. But, here are a few recent additions to my Ad Blog that were inspired by literature.

Falstaff and reputation management: I think Falstaff is Shakespeare’s single greatest creation. Emphasis on creation.

Twelfth Night and product placement: The version I watched was the 1969 production featuring Joan Plowright as Viola/Cesario and Sebastian, and Alec Guiness as Malvolio.

Robert Burns and creating tradition: In collecting folk songs, Burns rewrote several, altering the very thing being preserved. But then, that, too, is a tradition.

The Hollow Crown/Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3 and Richard III

I was very excited to see The Hollow Crown return to my local PBS station with three new episodes. They condense Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 1, Henry VI, Part 2, Henry VI, Part 3, and Richard III into three parts.

These plays are considered by some to be part of the Henriad and by others to be a separate minor Henriad. I consider them to be Margaret’s tetralogy. I’ve seen it in series only once before, in the magnificently conceptualized 1980s BBC-TV version directed by Jane Howell.

Despite lavish production values, I thought this new version fell far short of Howell’s mark, and I think that was down to the screenwriter and director. The actors were all magnificent, particularly Sophie Okonedo’s Margaret and Tom Sturridge’s Henry VI.

But the editorial cuts and directorial choices turned Shakespeare’s sweeping, subversive sociopolitical drama into a top-heavy look at the aristocratic elite. Almost all the common folk were eliminated, except as objects in massive CGI bloodbaths and carpets of hacked bodies.

The problem with that approach, is the commoners’ scenes are essential to the story for both counterpoise and emphasis. Early in Henry VI, Part 1, it’s a commoner, nay, the child of a commoner, who blows the powerful Salisbury into oblivion with one blast of an artfully aimed cannon (1.4). The mighty Talbot calls his common soldiers his “substance, sinews, arms, and strength” (2.3.63), and it is nameless soldiers of the opposing side who later overwhelm him and his son. Commoners drive the story forward through all three parts of Henry VI: La Pucelle’s shepherd father pleads for recognition, would-be con-man Saunder Simpcox and wife are exposed, citizens wronged by nobles petition for justice, oppressed apprentices fight their masters, pirates kill Suffolk, Jack Cade leads a peasant uprising (Cade himself trespasses upon a contented member of the middle class, Alexander Iden, who reluctantly fights and kills him, for which Iden rises to knighthood), a war-weary Henry encounters a Son who killed his father and a Father who killed his son, and in the end two keepers capture Henry.

In Richard III, a lowly jailer consoles the fallen Clarence, common murderers debate morality, ordinary citizens discuss the orderly transfer of power, and a mere scrivener blows the whistle on Richard’s deceit.

For all that, The Hollow Crown delivered a story edited for a pre-Brexit, pre-Trump world, one in which the focus could safely rest on the top strata of government and culture and the populist movements that powered those events could be ignored.

The amazing thing is, 400 years ago, Shakespeare didn’t do that. He wrote a play that crossed socioeconomic lines, one that let commoners speak their minds, stand on their rights, do terrible things, and yet take on their social betters.

All of which made me think that perhaps there’s an interesting alternative version of the Margaret tetralogy: one in which the parts of the nobles are reduced and the commoners are emphasized. Yes, Henry VI with less Henry, Richard III with less Richard. And common people all over the place. It’d be the same epic story told from a different perspective, yet one that’s present in the plays themselves. That’s something I’d like to see. Come to think of it, that’s something I’d like to try to do. Hmm.