14 April 2010

Book Review: Wit

Title: W;t
Author: Margaret Edson

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

Plot Synopsis
Vivian Bearing, a professor of English, specializing in the work of John Donne is undergoing treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer.  The play details her experience both with the treatment externally and with her transformation internally as she reassesses her life.

My Thoughts
I read this so quickly I barely feel up to reviewing it.  I opened it up with the intention of just reading the first few pages to see if it was something I'd like to use in my Introduction to Literature course.  An hour later I was finished and a bit surprised that I had so lost track of time.

I think what most intrigued me about the play is that it continually breaks the fourth wall.  Vivian directly speaks to the audience throughout, and at one point even says "Action!" to transition from speaking to the audience to a scene in her life.  At times, asides such as this can be cheesy or corny, but I felt it was artfully done in this play.

Thematically heavy, Wit begs to be re-read and re-examined; this is of course a wonderful trait for a literature course text. I will be able to bring in Donne's sonnets and discuss their relationship to the text; we can analyze the process by which a person is transformed by certainty of death; the relationship between professional and personal success can be debated; and of course we can discuss the age old 'what is most important in life' question. And to top it all off, the vocabulary is intense, offering me a wondrous opportunity to delve into the subtleties and nuances of language. 

Obviously I am reviewing this book particularly in light of using it for class; I didn't really mean to, but that's where my thoughts went.  As the play features a college professor and often discusses class sessions, students, and content, I'm hoping the students will see it as personally relevant, and not as self-serving for me.

Memorable Scene:  Vivian needs a pelvic exam and the fellow who will be performing the exam is a previous student.  I can feel the humiliation of the moment even as Vivian stoically accepts the turn of events.  This scene really stuck with me as I often joke that if I ever need to go to the hospital, I want to be taken to one far away, so as not to have any of my former students as nurses.

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know!

Rebecca Reads; A Striped Armchair;

FTC Disclosure:  I got this one from a publishing house to look over and determine if I want to use it in my Intro to Lit course.  Make of that what you will...
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading ResolutionsWomen UnBound, Read the Book See the Movie, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,


  1. I thought this play was fascinating. Vivian was so cold, but I still felt connected to her.

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  3. This sounds quite a script - powerful and interesting. Has it been performed anywhere?

    Thanks for sharing


  4. I actually love that you told us how you plan to use the play in your classes - makes me wish I was one of your students :P

  5. Yay! I'm glad you ended up loving this play. It's one of my favorites and I love telling people about it.

  6. Well, when I go to confession, I go to a church far away from where I live! Ha! I love the fact that this just fell into your lap and asked to be taught in one of your classes. It sounds fabulous!

  7. I never read the play but I saw the movie and it was amazing. I was all aching by the end of it. And the leading lady, she was amazing. I think it was Emma Thompson?!

  8. This sounds like such a gold mine -- an English professor's dream. :-) Now I want to see the movie.

  9. Avid Reader - I agree! It was a strange contradiction.

    Bethany - Thank you so much!

    Hannah - I'm actually getting the movie from Netflix sometime in the next few days!

    Nymeth - Oh, please come to my college and be one of my students! You wouldn't believe how many people sign up for Intro to Lit and readily claim they don't like to read!

    Vasilly - It was so original.

    Sandy - That sort of spontaneous-fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing seems to be how I function.

    Christina - I'm glad to hear that as Netflix is sending me the movie!

    Stephanie - I'm excited to see how the film compares.

  10. I havent read this play but I am getting the book first and the movie later.. Thanks for the review

  11. I havent read this play but I am getting the book first and the movie later.. Thanks for the review!


  12. Jenners - If you are looking for a play to read, I would definitely recommend it.

    Kavitha - I always recommend book before film! Did you post twice? Under two different names? :)


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