Month: May 2009 (page 2 of 6)

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Shakespeare liked a good turn of phrase, but even he might have a hard time stomaching the impact of social media on his masterpieces.

In the world of Twitter, less is more. 140 characters, to be exact. Shakespeare, whatever he may have had Polonius say, was not exactly known for being brief himself. Most of his plays were five acts and some of the monologues required a great deal of breath just to get through them. But here in the 21st century, some intrepid Tweeters are doing their best to condense The Bard.

In January, Pandora’s Skull set out to write a 140-character synopsis for each of Shakespeare’s plays – without losing any of the details that made it possible to distinguish one from another. On the whole, I thought the project turned out well. It was even fun to test myself to see if I could name each and every one (the abbreviated titles at the beginning helped, naturally). A sampling:

TotS: There is no clear winner in this battle between the sexes, but at least one couple probably ends up having good sex.

H: Mommy issues are just the beginning for a prince with a murdered father and new Uncle/Step-dad. Most everybody ends up dead.

AMND: A love potion straightens everything out and several couples end up happily together. Rustics are mocked. Watch out for fairies.

Meanwhile, in February, Mashable brought to light “Twitter of the Shrew,” an impressive attempt to recreate Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, over the course of 12 days and 19 different Twitter accounts (one for each character). Having browsed a few of the accounts, I feel lukewarm at best about this one. It’s a great idea – in theory. But reducing Shakespeare, who put so much into every line, every beat of iambic pentameter, to a paltry 140 characters seems like such a waste. And you do lose the rhythm of the language, which was a huge part of both Shakespeare and Elizabethan theater.

It’s always interesting to me to see how technology and media are changing the way people experience literature. But I guess part of me is still old-fashioned and thinks that no matter what technological advances are made, the original is still the best.

“Old fashions please me best.” (Bianca to Hortensio, TTofS III, 1)

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Book News Round-Up

Another week, another round of book news. It’s a short week this week; I guess I just didn’t find a lot of interesting news this week.

  • Crazier things have happened. The Washington Post reports that the Dept. of Homeland Security is turning to science fiction writers to dream up tools and gadgets to help security personnel. At the 2009 Homeland Security Science & Technology Stakeholders Conference (yes, that was actually the name), sci-fi writers mingled with police officers, firefighters and others as they talked about their wishes for cell phones that detect biohazards and on-the-scene DNA typing machines. [via Powell’s Books blog]
  • Does the name John David California sound familiar? No? Well, he’s the guy who wrote a sequel to J.D. Salinger’s classic, The Catcher in the Rye. Unfortunately for him, Salinger’s lawyers are “looking into the sequel,” as it is unauthorized and possibly contains references to trademarked characters and names. California, meanwhile, remains confident his book will eventually be published.
  • The folks over at the Inkwell Bookstore Blog recruited their other bookselling friends to help them compile a list of favorite books about books. They didn’t get them all, of course, but the list does include some of my own favorites: A.S. Byatt’s Possession and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.
  • It’s a celebration 400 years in the making. On May 20th, 1609, English publisher Thomas Thorpe received the license for “Shake-speare’s Sonnets.” The sonnets are beloved today, but their publication was not without controversy. At the time, some believed he had published the sonnets without Shakespeare’s permission, marking him as a scoundrel – surely one worthy of Shakespeare himself.
  • Cormac McCarthy’s Pultizer-Prize winning post-apocalyptic novel, The Road will soon grace the big screens, starring Viggo Mortensen. The latest trailer was released this week.

The Search for a (Publishing) Superstar

You could be the next…… novel contest winner!

Amazon and editors at Penguin Group are holding a contest to find the winner of the Breakthrough Novel Award 2009. Registration and submissions were accepted in February, with about 10,000 making the first cut. These were then whittled down to 100 semi-finalists and eventually three finalists. The three were announced last Friday and until tomorrow, Amazon customers can download excerpts from the finalists’ novels and then cast a vote to determine who will win. So, kind of like American Idol. Without Crazy Paula or Acerbic Simon.

In addition to the excerpts, there are also reviews from industry experts, like Sue Grafton and Sue Monk Kidd. The winning author, announced on May 27th, will receive a publishing contract from Penguin Group and (most likely) a book advance.

The finalists are: James King – Bill Warrington’s Last Chance; Ian Gibson: Stuff of Legends; and Brandi Lynn Ryder: In Malice, Quite Close. To vote, visit Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award web site.

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