"The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard's Unknown Travels"
Even as the film "Anonymous" questions the authenticity of the Bard from Stratford, a fascinating new book retraces Shakespeare's steps in modern-day Italy.
Richard Paul Roe, who died in late 2010, wrote the book after many years of prodigious reading and on-site research in examining Shakespeare from this unique angle. Roe investigated for himself Shakespeare's references to places that are mentioned in the plays and, like previous Shakespeare scholars, concludes the descriptions of Italy in Shakespeare's plays accurately reflected the Italy of that time.
Roe reminds readers that Shakespeare set most of his plays in Italy, from "Romeo and Juliet" and "Julius Caesar" to "The Taming of the Shrew" and "The Merchant of Venice." "There is a secret Italy hidden in the plays of Shakespeare," he writes.
This book is part travel guide and part history as Roe explains the intrigue of the politics and culture of the 16th century Mediterranean. A dozen erudite but accessible chapters describe the Italy of Shakespeare's plays in loving detail. The photographs of modern-day Italy, archival maps and color illustrations help bring Shakespeare's Italy to full vibrant life. (Harper Perennial, $19.99)
"Chronicles of Old Paris: Exploring the Historic City of Light"
This lovely, gorgeous and intelligent book examines the Paris of old and not so old, with its many fascinating figures and tales. Included in the short but insightful chapters are Marie Antoinette, whom author John Baxter calls misunderstood; the famous Paris Commune; the man behind the Eiffel Tower; Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Maurice Utrillo and other painters of the bohemian community of Montmartre; Paris and the Beat Generation; and the new wave films of Godard and Truffaut. Also here are Marcel Proust, Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Baker.
Baxter describes detailed walking tours of the area surrounding the Paris Opera and the adjacent grand boulevards of Paris. He also includes the seedy but always fascinating Pigalle neighborhood and its Moulin Rouge dance hall, which is, Baxter notes, an expensive cabaret/restaurant and still features the can-can. There are the charming if touristy Montmartre; the crowded Latin Quarter and Notre Dame; the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood, once the haunt of jazz musicians, philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and members of the Lost Generation; the Luxembourg Gardens; artsy Montparnasse; and the Eiffel Tower.
In addition to its fascinating details, the book is lavishly illustrated. (Museyon Guides, $19.95)
"Moon Maya 2012"
According to the Mayan calendar, Dec. 21, 2012, marks the end of the so-called Long Count, a 5,125-year cycle that some believe will mark a peaceful transition into a new era while others (and this part has been getting most of the press) essentially warn about the end of the Earth.
Whatever your preference, in the year 2012 parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras will be honoring the famous calendar with plenty of celebrations and cultural events. Author Joshua Berman describes special Maya-themed tours, events, ceremonies, symposiums and festivities at both minor and major Mayan archaeological sites.
Anyone who is considering the trip should appreciate this insightful guide.(Avalon, $7.99)Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times