Unreasonable Employment Practices

Do you have a problem with your employer? Does your boss expect you to work for your pay? Do your colleagues expect you to spend all day working on spreadsheets, invoices, and other things that you don’t really care about? Annoying, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you rather be at home reading Emily Dickinson and staring into the middle distance? Well now there is an answer: read at work and get away with it. You read that right. A new service called Read At Work offers to disguise your reading as Powerpoint slides. Noone will ever know the difference. “What’s that you’re doing?” your supervisor asks. “Oh, I’m just making up the slides for my Powerpoint presentation at the sales conference tomorrow,” you reply. Give it a try. [via]

‘Dumbing down’ Shakespeare: to be or not to be?

A call from the University’s press office at noon on a Friday is not a particularly usual occurrence. ‘We’re after someone to talk about Shakespeare, just for a few minutes, as part of City Talk’s discussion on making Shakespeare more accessible to younger people – we thought that Jane Davis would be a good person to do this, is she around?’ Ah. No, Jane’s in Paris. Estelle, the coordinator of our Community Shakespeare project is also unavailable. A little more information required now, as I could see that this interview was to be falling upon my shoulders. So I discover that this has all come about after an article published in The Telegraph about Martin Baum’s new publication Yoof Speak.

I feel that yes, Shakespeare, were he alive today, would have felt “duty bound” to reflect “life as it really is in the 21st century” but as far as I can tell, life isn’t all “innit”, “bovvered” and “geezas” in the 21st century. I am not alone in thinking this, am I? Perhaps I live in a bubble where sentences still have words without a littering of zs and vs. Were he alive today I am sure Shakespeare’s language would reflect our current idioms but still be as poetic and beautiful as it was four-hundred years ago. He may well drop a few ts or swear more frequently but really, “innit”? I doubt it. So, in an attempt to defend the richness of the Bard’s language and to reinforce that part of the enjoyment of Shakespeare is in getting to grips with that language, searching for the meaning and feeling like you’ve achieved something, I took to the stage (as it were). Oh okay, if I must… click here to ‘listen again’ (about 45 minutes in).

Now, the problem that I have about this mutation of:

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.


Verona was de turf of de feuding Montagues and de Capulet families. And coz they was always brawling and stuff, de prince of Verona told them to cool it or else they was gonna get well mashed if they carried on larging it with each other.

Is that it’s just not Shakespeare is it? I truly believe that Shakespeare can be accessible for all and is, if the time is given to it and texts or performances are approached in a dynamic and interesting way for those who would be otherwise uninterested and un-enthused. Take The Reader Organisation’s Community Shakespeare project: organised by Get Into Reading, we will be staging two performances of The Winter’s Tale in August, reaching out across the Wirral community to members of our GIR groups, local schools and people who, for various reasons feel socially excluded, in the hope that we will be able to make Shakespeare more accessible to the wider community. Members will take part in a wide range of activities to support the event from costume making, ticket design, painting and publicity. It will be hard work, it will take a lot of time, a lot of planning and energy but it will be, we hope, an invigorating, life-enhancing and enjoyable experience for all involved.

Surely it is better to take the time to read, explain and hopefully, eventually, be able to connect with the words of Shakespeare than to alter the language to such a hideous extent that even the story itself loses its essence? Shakespeare is his language. To alter that alters the entire experience.

Posted by Jen Tomkins

The Reader Magazine: Special Offers

Here at The Reader organisation, we don’t really like to do things in a conventional manner. So instead of having a sale after Christmas, we’re having one before. From now until Christmas Eve, back issues of The Reader up to and including issue 26, will be available for just £2 each. So delve into our ten-year past and unearth some hidden treasures; when all you’re paying for is postage, there’s nothing to stop you really. What we are wondering though, is would you buy a back issue of The Reader from these men?

There is a Christmas gift subscription to The Reader – issue 28 (Winter) free, followed by the four issues due out in 2008 – up for grabs for the person that comes up with the best guess as to what Phil and Phill are saying. Make your non-libellous suggestions in the comments.

Posted by Jen Tomkins

NY Diary 3: Thomas Hardy’s ‘I look into my glass’

Phil reciting ‘I look into my glass’ by Thomas Hardy in Sarge’s Deli 548 3rd Avenue.

Not Large’s – Sarges!

Enid took us to her home ground, down on the lower east side where Sarges is her home deli – corned beef hash with eggs over was attempted by the Stube, a ridiculous no-contest. Have you seen her? She’s a sparrow! Yet see how she wields that lint-roller!

Phil ordered chopped liver and pastrami on rye – it came, he saw and conquered. The pickles were another story – that follows later.

Jane had hot brisket and onions – feh! Vegetarians beware.

NY Diary 1: Lint

Featuring Reader editor Philip Davis on 6th Avenue with our Spy from NY, Enid Stubin, she removing the lint from his dusty editor’s jacket before heading for lunch at Larges. We who have been left at home wonder whether the resourceful La Stubin has something for swatting moths in the unlikely event that PD offers to buy a drink.

Of course the reason for this madness is this appearance at the 92nd Street Y.

Featured Poem: The Stone Beach

In the last of our poetry recommendations for this week Reader outreach worker and Reader Online editor Katie Peters chooses Simon Armitage’s ‘The Stone Beach’. She says: “I like stanzas 4 and 6 best, and especially the idea of living in the present but simultaneously carrying the memory of a distant past life which lives on in the present through that memory and through those who shared that life with you.”

Of course we asked permission to print this poem and Simon Armitage replied through his agent that he was happy for it to appear here, but to contact Faber, the publisher, to confirm. The agent said there was unlikely to be a problem. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. I contacted the permissions department of Faber earlier in the week to ask if we could post the poem here. We promised of course to cite the conditions of the permission offered and it goes without saying that we would have linked to the Faber catalogue and to places where our readers could buy the collection The Universal Home Doctor, which was published in 2002. ‘The Stone Beach’ is characteristic of the collection, which was described by The Guardian at the time as “amusing and charming – effortlessly winning over an audience when read out loud – yet essentially serious, substantial enough to repay reconsidering. [The poems] achieve this because their preferred method is allegory, “mouthing off” about one thing while thinking about another.”

In the end on Friday I received word from Faber that we would be able to publish the poem here, but at a cost of £155 (ex. VAT, naturally). That would buy us a year of having the poem on this page, but Faber would retain the right to take it down with a month’s notice. Since we would be providing publicity for Faber, rather than the other way around, I declined this generous offer. So instead of the poem, let us all consider Faber’s permissions letter, published in full below. I’m going to be writing more on this topic in the next few days, since it seems to resonate with the mistakes made by the music industry over the last few years. I just love the bit about not ‘photocopying downloads,’ whatever that means. In the mean time if you think this document is as ridiculous as I do, feel free to contact Faber to tell them so. A contact address is available on this page.

The Permissions Form in Full:

Thank you for your email requesting permission to reproduce the above on your open-access web site www.thereaderonline.com (sic) in textual form.

We have certain conditions for the use of our copyright material on the internet and I have listed these below together with our fees for non-exclusive English Language permission throughout the UK and Commonwealth.

Fee: £155.00 plus VAT

This permission is granted for the period of one year only and we reserve the right to withdraw our permission with one month’s notice. A copyright line including the title of the work, the source of the poem, the author and Faber and Faber Ltd as the publisher must be printed, as well as a warning that photocopying downloads is against copyright law. We would also request that your web site is linked to a book shop site or our own web site [www.faber.co.uk].

Please indicate below how you wish to proceed and then return this fax to (+44) (0)20 7465 0108.

If we do not receive a reply within thirty days we will assume that you have proceeded.


If after all that you still feel like reading the poem ‘The Stone Beach’ is freely available online here. Interestingly very few of the conditions imposed above have been met.

Posted by Chris Routledge. Powered by Qumana

Famous Poems as Limericks

Boing Boing, the self-styled “directory of wonderful things” posted a link yesterday to a collection of limericks based on famous poems. This kept us entertained for quite a while. Here’s my favourite:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

There was an old father of Dylan
Who was seriously, mortally illin’
“I want,” Dylan said
“You to bitch till you’re dead.
“I’ll be cheesed if you kick it while chillin’.”

And here are two we prepared earlier:

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

There was an old man of the sea
Who stopped wedding guest number three
And told him a tale
Of a bird and no gale
That left the poor chap on his knees.

My Last Duchess

The ambassador said “Well, you know,
The Duke has put on quite a show,
But you look at her picture
And suddenly it hits yer:
She’s charming, but where did she go?”

Posted by Chris Powered by Qumana