Rewriting Shakespeare

In yet more news of Shakespearean retellings, Random House is now set to publish a series of the Bard’s plays rewritten as prose. The RH imprint Hogarth has commissioned authors Anne Tyler and Jeanette Winterson as the first to release novels in the forthcoming “Hogarth Shakespeare Project.” The two will be rewriting The Taming of the Shrew and The Winter’s Tale respectively. These are set for release in 2016 (alas, still far away), exactly 400 years after the Bard’s death.

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Hogarth explains that these new releases are intended to “be true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to reinvent these seminal works of English literature.” And from the sounds of it, the writers can’t wait to get their hands on these texts…

Tyler, who has previously won the Pulitzer prize for her novel Breathing Lessons, says, “I don’t know which I’m looking forward to more: ‘Delving into the mysteries of shrewish Kate or finding out what all the other writers do with their Shakespeare characters.’”

Her counterpart, meanwhile, feels a special draw to The Winter’s Tale: “All of us have talismanic texts that we have carried around and that carry us around. I have worked with The Winter’s Tale in many disguises for many years. This is a brilliant opportunity to work with it in its own right.” Winterston has written both novels and BAFTA award winning scripts.

Excitement about a new imagining of Shakespeare’s works aside, what are your thoughts on how the new prose form will change the way we think of Shakespeare’s tales? Will the inevitable loss of his poetic language leave readers wanting? Or will we find a fresh new way to appreciate these stories?

If you were to rewrite one of Shakespeare’s works in this way, what would you choose and where would you take it? 


F. Scott Fitzgerald Says “Read This!”

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F. Scott Fitzgerald was very ill in 1936 and was recovering at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina with the help of a private nurse.  In addition to his failing health, the author was struggling with the decision to commit his wife, Zelda, to a mental institution at a nearby hospital.  His essay about his own decline, The Crack-Up, had just been published in Esquire.  Here, Fitzgerald voices an incredibly sad awareness of his own decline:  “[M]y life had been a drawing on resources that I did not possess, that I had been mortgaging myself physically and spiritually up to the hilt,” he wrote.

It didn’t seem that anything could go right that year.  Fitzgerald’s drinking had become increasingly problematic and he had significant money problems.  That summer, he “fractured his shoulder while diving into the hotel swimming pool, and sometime later, according to Michael Cody at the University of South Carolina’s Fitzgerald Web site, “he fired a revolver in a suicide threat, after which the hotel refused to let him stay without a nurse.” (Source)

Eventually, the hotel relented and allowed Fitzgerald to have an attendant, a woman named Dorothy Richardson, who, in addition to tending to his physical needs, had the unenviable task of keeping the writer from drinking too much.

The two developed a friendship during his convalescence. At one point, apparently Dorothy asked what she should read.  Here is the list Fitzgerald gave her, written in her own hand as he reeled off the titles and author’s names:

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Here is a  more legible list.

(Source)


The World’s Top 10 Bookstore Ads

These days the world of independent bookstores (and giant chains of bookstores) just has to get more and more eye catching to compete with readers’ shrunken attention spans. What to do? Hire the entire cast of Mad Men and come up with one of these genius spots, to start:

1. Mint Vinetu, Vilnius, 2011.

 

2. Whitcoullis, New Zealand, 2011. Amazingly the poster includes all the words to A Clockwork Orange. (Because it’s just the kind of novel you want to read in really tiny script…)

3. L’Echange, Montreal, 2007. See another here. An ingenious marketing strategy for a popular secondhand book store.

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For Hemingway’s Birthday, A Gift to the World

Hemingway Scrapbooks

JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY / AP (The birth certificate and family photograph of Ernest Hemingway from a scrapbook created by his mother, Grace Hall Hemingway.)

Long before “scrapbooking” was a verb, mothers were collecting memories about their children and their achievements in volumes for posterity.  Fortunately for both fans and scholars of Ernest Hemingway, his mother, Grace, was one of these women who kept meticulous journals of her now-famous (and infamous) son.

This week, in honor of what would have been the iconic American author’s 114th birthday, July 21, 1899, the  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston has made available to the public the digitized journals.   There are a total of five volumes and all can now be viewed online here.

For scholars, this is particularly exciting news as the majority of the collection has never been available and only a few fortunate researchers have seen it at all. Prior to their digitization, the leather books were kept in a dark vault to prevent them from crumbling and otherwise becoming damaged.

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Not At This Time: Rejection Letters to Famous Writers

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Why is dad so sad?  Probably because he just checked his mail and found his self-addressed stamped envelope in his box, his manuscript inside, and the dreaded form letter saying, “We are sorry, but your manuscript does not currently meet our specific needs.”  The first dozen or so times, Dad wanted to believe the closing line promising to review his work in the future but…

Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel) knew the feeling.  His now-classic children’s book  And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected a whopping twenty-seven times before it was finally accepted by Vanguard Press.  This may be your fate as well.

Putting your work out in the world is scary. Rejection sucks. It can make you afraid to do it again.  But you have to try.  Because the twenty-seventh or twenty-eighth time might just be the one.

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Treesoffers this advice to writers feeling wounded:  “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”

To give you hope, here are ten rejections of famous writers as well as a some of their reactions and advice about coping with rejection:

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Feats of Greatness, Feet of Clay: Authors, Flaws, and the People Behind the Stories

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(Orson Scott Card poses at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in 2008. Wikimedia Commons/ Nihonjoe)

“Just because someone’s a member of an ethnic minority doesn’t mean they’re not a nasty small-minded little jerk.” ~ Terry Pratchett, from Feet of Clay 

There is a reason I frequently shy away from reading biographies:  people suck.  Even the best people suck.  If you want to go on admiring someone, don’t know them personally.  The art, of course, speaks for itself.  It need not be burdened by the shortcomings of its creator.  But (at least for me) it is difficult to separate the two once you know.  You cannot, as the saying goes, unsee something.

Today, a lot of people, including myself, were surprised to learn that beloved science fiction writer Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Gameis an anti-gay activist, and has been for a very long time.  In 2008, he wrote that “marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.”   Responding to the Supreme Court decision on the topic of gay marriage, Card told Entertainment Weekly  “it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”

Hmmmm…. interesting that someone who is against tolerance wants to see how people with tolerance respond….

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Top Ten Pick-Up Lines in Literature

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For the Power of Words, I give you Exhibit A: Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, The Crucibleand Marilyn Monroe.

As Exhibit B: Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children and Padma Lakshmi.

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I could go on.

Here are ten great lines from literature that just might help you get lucky, too. 

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1.  “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”

- From The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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