Book Title/Author: Ibsen in an Hour by Rick Davis and Brian Johnston
Publisher/Year Published: In an Hour Books by Smith and Kraus, 2009.
How I got a hold of this book: I received this free copy in the mail from the publisher after being asked to review and coordinate a giveaway.
Why I read this book: I chose this particular playwright because I had heard about Ibsen, but I never knew anything about him any of the plays he had written.
Rating: 4.5 stars. This book is well-written. The essay does a phenomenal job of placing Ibsen's work in a larger context. I would have liked more on what authors influenced him, but the essay achieves its goal and I cannot take away many points for the minor lapse.
I knew nothing about Ibsen when I started this book. I had heard his name dropped by some literary friend (or maybe I came across it in a book) and he sounded pretty important, so I wanted to learn more about him.
This book definitely met my expectations.
The book begins with a timeline of major events in Ibsen's life, as well as world events that shaped him and his writing. Next is a list of his works and a list of contemporaries. The list of contemporaries includes other writers, as well as athletes, political figures, prominent businessmen, among other famous and important people. This part of the book, I think, helped put Ibsen into a larger context. It showed events and people that influenced him.
The bulk of the book is a scholarly essay on Ibsen. Aside from biographical information, the readers learns that Ibsen wrote plays during a time known for its novels and poetry. He wrote when the Romantics were producing their work and Dickens was publishing also. As a result, theatre was in a strange place. Ibsen is known more for his influences on later plays than for his own body of work although he received quite a bit of attention, positive and negative, by his contemporaries. He is called the father of modern theatre because he laid the groundwork that future playwrights followed, such as the emphasis on a beautiful setting, the development of many archetypes, and his focus on "other" characters. Setting was important to Ibsen because he was something of an artist. He was also a poet. Another struggle he faced was the fact that he was really the first Norwegian playwright, so he was striving to develop a national style.
The next section is comprised of dramatic moments from some of his major plays. I think that this section does a good job of supporting the claims made in the essay about his work and they give a feel for his writing style. The excerpts also give a little bit of a feel for how Ibsen evolved as a writer during his career. The last major section is a lengthy bibliography of scholarly and popular works on Ibsen. It lists the sources used in the essay and books to reference a variety of topics for further reading, such as biographies on Ibsen and books about American theatre.
I think it would be a good tool for students taking a course where they'll read Ibsen's plays, for people who are interested in the playwright, and for people who want to learn about the development of modern theatre.
As promised, we have a giveaway!
This Ibsen book is part of a series called Playwrights in an Hour. The publisher is allowing me to give away one of their books to a lucky reader. The series is broken into four time periods with the following playwrights:
Ancient Greek--Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripedes, Sophocles
Modern--Chekhov, Coward, Hansberry, Ibsen, Miller, Moliere, O'Neill, Schnitzler, Shaw, Strindberg, Wedekind, Wilde, Wilder, Williams
Contemporary--Albee, Ayckbourn, Beckett, Rebeck, Ruhl, Shepard, Stoppard, A. Wilson
Leave me a comment telling me which playwright you would want to receive. At 9:00pm (cst) on Saturday, January 15, I will randomly select one reader to receive a free copy of the playwright of their choice.
There will be three more playwright giveaways over the next several weeks...