The Reading List: Scandals
Monday 20 June 2011
'Notes on a Scandal' by Zoë Heller (Penguin, £2.60)
A murky tale of middle-class scandal from Zoë Heller.
When Sheba, an art teacher, begins an affair with a 15-year-old pupil, she confides in Barbara, an older colleague and friend. But Barbara's intentions are flawed; she uses her position to render Sheba entirely dependent, a solution to her own loneliness and obsessions. It is also the subject of an excellent film adaptation starring Cate Blanchett.
'The School for Scandal' by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Oxford World's Classics, £8.99)
Sheridan's famous play is a masterpiece in comedy and intrigue. Brothers Joseph and Charles contend for the affections of the beautiful Maria, though their intentions are much different. First presented in 1777, it challenged the Georgian social standards of its day with aplomb and remains Sheridan's most-loved work.
'Daisy Miller' by Henry James (Penguin Classics, £5.99)
A vivacious young American travelling in Europe with her mother catches the eye of Frederick Forsyth Winterbourne. When she forms a close friendship with an Italian man, perceptions of her compromising behaviour make her an outcast among American society. It's only later – too late – that Winterbourne discovers her true nature. James's short novel is an elegant portrait of the destruction wrought by the rigidity of social mores.
'Journal of the Plague Year: An Insider's Chronicle of Eliot Spitzer's Short and Tragic Reign' by Lloyd Constantine (Zontik LLC, £ 63.59)
A fast-paced account of the 16 turbulent months that Constantine spent working as a senior advisor to Eliot Spitzer, focusing on the pivotal 61 hours from the moment he received a phone call notifying him of the news that Spitzer had patronised the notorious brothel, Emperors Club VIP. With the story about to dominate the front pages of newspapers the next day, Constantine was forced into a frantic exercise of limiting damage.
'Scandal' by John Clare (Everyman Poetry, £3.00)
"She stands with eager haste at slander's tale / And drinks the news as drunkards drink their ale." Clare's poignant reflection on a gossip-mongering young woman captures, wonderfully, the hypocrisy that is embedded in our observation of social scandal.
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