Thursday, January 14, 2016

Shakespeare: The Planet

Card, Orson Scott. Ender in Exile. New York: Tor Science Fiction, 2009.

With a small kernel of a short story called "Ender's Game," Orson Scott Card developed a intricately-detailed universe spanning centuries both prior to and long after the events depicted in the novel Ender's Game. Among the dozen or twenty novels in the Enderverse is Ender in Exile, set between the first and second novels in the Ender series.

Without giving away too much, the novel tells the story of Ender's journey to the colonized planet of which he is to become the governor. On the journey, Ender and some of the passengers put on a reading of The Taming of the Shrew. That part is somewhat interesting in how it connects to the larger themes of the novel, but it's not as intriguing as the e-mail correspondence between Ender and the acting governor of the colony—especially when they discuss the name the planet and its settlements should have.

The correspondence picks up in the middle. Ender has evidently proposed calling the planet "Prospero," but the acting governor explains why that wouldn't be very much appreciated.

I'm providing a block quote (of a fashion) below with the exchange (94-99):

The conclusion, then, is to call the whole planet Shakespeare (and to give that name to the first town); future towns will be named after characters in Shakespeare.

It makes me wonder how the other cities will choose their names—and how that would affect tourism. "Caliban City: A nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there."

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book Note: The Gap of Time

Winterson, Jeanette. The Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale Retold. London: Hogarth Shakespeare, 2015.

As long-time readers (and, really, even first-time readers) can imagine, I was extremely interested to hear of the new Hogarth Shakespeare series that started last year. Well-known authors are signing up to write novels that retell Shakespeare's plays.

Apparently, Jeanette Winterson was tapped to try her hand at it, and she chose to retell The Winter's Tale in her novel The Gap of Time. The title is drawn from Leontes' final speech in the play, which concludes with these lines:
                                              Good Paulina,
Lead us from hence, where we may leisurely
Each one demand an answer to his part
Perform'd in this wide gap of time since first
We were dissever'd: hastily lead away. (V.iii.151-55)
Settling down to read the novel—called "The Cover Version" (7) by its author—over Christmas break, I was thrilled by the first chapter—and then pretty deeply disappointed by the rest of the novel. To give you a sense of the opening, I'm excerpting the first part of the first chapter. It starts just after Shakespeare's "Exit pursued by a bear" (IV.iii.58.s.d.). Note: I've done a little "explicative deleted" (or "Nixonizing") to the excerpt below. 

I find that to be very satisfying and very interesting. And the same can be said of a number of plot devices in The Gap of Time.  The oracle is replaced by a DNA test for paternity.  Autolycus is a used car dealer—and his dealership is called "AUTOS LIKE US." And the author even works in a clever reference to herself in a Wikipedia entry about one of the characters in the novel—"MiMi made her acting debut in 2002 onstage at Théâtre National de Chaillot in Deborah Warner's adaption of The PowerBook—a novel by the British writer Jeanette Winterson" (49).  

But with all that going for it, I'm not sure the novel as a whole works very well. The main part of that is the extreme stress Winterson puts on any of the homoeroticism in the play. Her Leontes and Polixenes analogues had a homosexual fling in their youth, and Polixenes still self-identifies as gay. This explains why he can be in the Hermione analogue's bedroom while she's changing in and out of various outfits (while Leontes watches on secretly-installed survellience camera and works himself into a fever pitch of obscene jealousy). But Polixenes needs a son to meet up with Leontes' daughter eventually, so he has had a heterosexual fling in order to have a son. Much of the novel doesn't seem contrived, but that element does. And even though Leontes' jealousy is irrational, if Polixenes is gay, it makes it a bit less believable (which is not a great direction to take, since it already totters on the unbelievable).

I'm eager to see what else the Hogarth Shakespeare series will give us; this one had a great deal of promise, but, for me, ultimately fell flat.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest