Books: The Wednesday Wars

July 1, 2017

One thing I like about reading challenges is that I read – and enjoy – books I would not have picked up otherwise. I generally read widely enough that I can check off most of the items on the list without going looking for them. Often I discover that a book I picked for one category fits another, one that would have been harder to find a match for. For instance, I picked Amor Towles’ excellent novel A Gentleman in Moscow because it was a bestseller in 2016, but discovered that it was set in a hotel (and it’s amazing how a book about a man living in a hotel manages to seem so much bigger than its setting).

By now I’m down to the categories that I don’t fill just by accident. I had already read a book with one of the seasons in the title (An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell, who is one of my current favorite mystery writers, along with Louise Penny, who wrote Still Life, which is set around a holiday other than Christmas), but browsing in the library hadn’t uncovered any books with a month or day of the week in the title.

With Google, however, it was easy to discover The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, and a quick look at reviews on convinced me it was worth reading. Some coming-of-age novels annoy me (I realize that by definition, the main character is at least somewhat immature to start with, but sometimes the characters are just plain hard to care about, let alone like), but this one is wonderful.

Read the rest of this entry »

Books: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

September 29, 2013

I was in Walmart, shopping, when this book
I chanced to see, and straightway would have bought
It, but for frugal habit and the thought
That freely might I read it if I took
It out for three weeks from the library.

Star Wars rewritten as a Shakespearean play? The very incongruousness of it makes it appealing and humorous, at least for a geek who enjoys both Star Wars and Shakespeare. I’m not a hard-core Star Wars fan, so it would be hard for me to say how closely Ian Doescher’ William Shakespeare’s Star Wars follows the dialog from the movie, but other reviews assure me he reproduces it quite accurately – in amusingly altered form.

My favorite parts are probably C3PO’s colorful complaints about his droid companion, R2D2.

Thou overladen glob of grease, thou imp,Thou rubbish bucket fit for scrap, thou blue
And silver pile of bantha dung! Now, come,
And get thee hence away lest someone sees.

To which R2D2 replies:

Beep, meep, beep, squeak, beep, beep, beep, meep, beep, whee!

(Writing beeps in iambic pentameter is fairly straightforward.)

Not every line is taken from the original. R2D2 occasionally engages in asides to the audience in which he speaks good English. And major characters such as Luke, Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader give soliloquies elaborating on their thoughts and motivations.

I have to admit, the novelty of it does wear off after a bit. By the middle of the book, I was just reading it to enjoy the story. By the end I was tiring somewhat of the need to fit all dialog into metrical form. Doescher does a decent job, I suppose, of imitating Shakespeare’s style, but whether because he is limited – mostly – to the dialog from the movie or because he lacks the skill to write great poetry, it lacks the elegance and sharp wit of much of Shakespeare’s writing.

It is a relatively simple thing
Such verse to write, though eloquence in verse
Is quite another matter altogether.