The fabulous Tammy Burns tweets me news of two new Shakespeare-related books reviewed in the Toronto Globe and Mail. I can tell you now I’m going to skip How Shakespeare Changed Everything: apparently devoid of actual analysis of Shakespeare but full of “armies of interesting facts to argue that Shakespeare irrevocably altered the North American environment, created modern English, killed Abraham Lincoln, ticked off Tolstoy, put Barack Obama in the White House, invented the teenager and improved your sex life,” it sounds like exactly the kind of Shakespeare-lite trivia book that I’ve been encouraged to write—full of quotes out of context, Life Lessons, and cute situations (Julie and Julia with soliloquies instead of recipes, as I used to say). Hell, maybe I should have written that book: Stephen Marche is getting reviewed in the Globe and Mail while I work my way through the plays trying to convey some sense of the real excitement I feel when I read them. And the review concludes: “Marche’s slim volume is the perfect present to convert skeptics who doubt the importance of literature.” Silly me, to imagine that actually reading and thinking about the plays was the way to do that.
I’m surprised, though, that the reviewer, Philippa Sheppard, didn’t know about the starlings. (In case you don’t want to click through, starlings were introduced to North America by a moron who wanted to introduce every species of bird mentioned in Shakespeare to the continent.) I knew about them from childhood, when I first read about starlings. And though there’s no reason for Sheppard, unlike Diski, to have done it, another simple click on Wikipedia would have laid bare the story.
Maybe a well-done reworking is another way to convert skeptics, though. That’s why I’ll be reading Chris Adrian’s The Great Night based on Sheppard’s review. I’m especially intrigued by Sheppard’s observation that “Adrian displays a rare understanding of the menace of Shakespeare’s faeries,” because that understanding is rare indeed; perhaps the most important thing I have to say about A Midsummer Night’s Dream is that the fairies are not nice—and I can’t think of anybody else who emphasizes that other than Neil Gaiman in his retelling of the story in The Sandman.
Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near my own dream, which was to be discussing A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Midsummer Night. We’ll get there if we have to wait until winter, though—I promise. And I may well discuss The Winter’s Tale this summer, if I actually see the Dream in High Park production I’m not expecting much from. Why not invert the seasons?