Reader's Exchange

Can't take it with you: your reputation

I saw one of those annoying commercials again last night.  It's not political ads I find exasperating; it's the appeals for us to charge vast sums on our credit cards to finance theme park vacation packages so we can "make memories" for our families.

Surely this approach aims directly for parents of the very young?  The onset of adolescence in one's offspring usually dispels any hope of shaping another's future perceptions, not to mention current ones.   And it's not just our relatives who have free rein to forget, embroider, or recall facts differently than we'd prefer.  Libraries can supply stacks of evidence that anyone may re-examine or imagine at will. 

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) is a case in point.  He seems to be popping up everywhere these days.  For example, "Kit" Marlowe enlivens Deborah Harkness' Shadow of Night (sequel to her bestselling A Discovery of Witches).  Generally viewed as the best-known Elizabethan dramatist and possible author of works attributed to Shakespeare, in Shadow Marlowe is portrayed as a daemon.  University professor Harkness, well versed in lore of the age, had her reasons for casting Marlowe as a devious, mercurial, but obviously gifted creature.

Other historical realities are employed in the All Souls trilogy: the elusive Ashmole 782 manuscript sought by Diana is a known-but missing-actual document; the School of Night group existed; and "Shadow of Night" denotes a George Chapman poem dedicated to Matthew Roydon.Antique memory book

About Matthew:  Harkness depicts him as Matthew de Clermont/Clairmont/Roydon, a 1500-year-old vampire (also courtier, scholar, builder, architect, spy, poet, since attenuated lifespan presents ample time for skills acquisition).  Roydon really was an Elizabethan poet in Marlowe's circle.  Charles Nicholls' The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe is among resources that Matthew's fans could consult for more details.

Readers curious about Kit Marlowe's exploits would also appreciate The Reckoning, along with the library's literature databases and some Marlowe nonfiction on our shelves.   But fiction fans particularly benefit from Marlowe's trendiness; they can choose from Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford; Leslie Silbert's The Intelligencer; Louise Welsh's Tamburlaine Must Die and--new from M.J. Trow--Dark Entry and Silent Court.  Trow envisions the multi-talented Marlowe as crime investigator, a pursuit complementing his known scholarship and reputed espionage.

Philip Henderson observes that we now find Marlowe relatively well documented because "his name appears fairly frequently in academic, secret service, and police records".  Unlike the understated Marlowe portrayed by Rupert Everett in Shakespeare in Love, the real Kit made enemies left and right and engaged in barroom brawls and street fights.  A fellow playwright once called him "an epicure, an atheist, and a Machiavellian."

Of course, now the "M" word merits reconsideration.  Michael Ennis' new The Malice of Fortune depicts Niccolo Machiavelli collaborating with Leonard da Vinci to track down a serial killer.  Ennis invites us to view the author of The Prince not as deceitful but rather as "a loyal, charismatic friend" and "an incurable romantic".

But the traditional reference is so much more fun.


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