Thursday, April 14, 2016

Shakespeare inspired titles in honor of the Great Michigan Read

This April, Peter White Public Library is celebrating the 2015-2016 Great Michigan Read selection, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The Great Michigan Read is a book club for the entire state with a focus on a single book and is sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council.

Station Eleven is a novel about a traveling Shakespearean theater company after a flu pandemic has killed most of the world’s people. The theater company travels in a wagon along the Great Lakes shoreline of Lower Michigan performing Shakespeare’s plays, guided by a line from Star Trek, “Because survival is insufficient.” The book opens at a Toronto performance of King Lear just before the pandemic hits and follows several of the people involved with the play as they either fall ill or struggle to survive the aftermath. The story weaves back and forth in time from before the pandemic through the following years and connects the various players and their family members in unexpected ways.

A public book discussion of Station Eleven will be led by the Transition Marquette Book Group on Thursday, April 14 at 7:00 in the Peter White Conference Room on the main floor of the library. CineArts Film Series will host a special movie presentation of Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s retelling of King Lear, set in 16th century Japan, at 6:00 on Friday, April 15 in the Community Room. Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V will be shown at 6:00 on Thursday, April 28, also in the Community Room. These events are free and all are welcome.

In The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, author James Shapiro portrays the year 1606 which was disastrous for England but extraordinarily creative for Shakespeare. The plague reoccurred. Guy Fawkes was tried and executed for the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt on the life of King James and members of the Royal Court and Parliament. England was ruled by a Scottish king and struggled with religious and political divisions. This upheaval inspired Shakespeare to finish King Lear which revolves around dividing a kingdom, and to write Macbeth which is about the murder of a Scottish king, and Antony and Cleopatra, a story of empire and greed. Shapiro’s book explores how Shakespeare wove the beliefs, fears and cultural events of his time into these three great tragedies and, in the doing, shows why Shakespeare still matters.

Jeff Abbott’s fourth Sam Capra thriller, Inside Man, draws on King Lear. Sam, a former CIA agent, runs a Miami bar. His friend Steve Robles is working security for Cordelia Varela, a daughter and heiress to her father’s global transportation company based in Miami. When Steve is killed outside his bar, Sam poses as Cordelia’s boyfriend to get inside the family compound to find Steve’s killer and help Cordelia. Rey Varela, Cordelia’s father, is suffering from dementia. With the help of his blind assistant, Kent, Rey is attempting to divide his shipping empire among his three children, playing one against the other in this fast-paced story wherein Sam faces his own failures as a son and father.

Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs by Erik Didriksen is a very smart and very funny reimagining of 100 classic pop songs as Shakespearean sonnets. Topics, always relevant, include love, despair, the passage of time, rogues, wanton women, and heroes. Songs by Celine Dion, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Katy Perry, Bon Jovi, the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, MC Hammer, Michael Jackson, and Aretha Franklin are included. This is a great collection of inspirational humor for parties, English papers, and cozy occasions. –“And so, good sir, do not my heart neglect; when thou com’st home, pray show me some respect.”

Originally broadcast on PBS, each episode of Shakespeare Uncovered tells the story behind one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Episodes are hosted by a celebrated actor such as Derek Jacobi, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Fiennes, and Hugh Bonneville, each of whom shares his passion for Shakespeare. The host covers the play’s history, biographical information, most memorable actors, the cultural, political and religious influences on Shakespeare’s writing, and recent analysis of the play. PWPL owns two series of Shakespeare Uncovered on DVD, each with six episodes.

Dr. Laura Bates teaches courses on Shakespeare at Indiana State University where she is an assistant professor. For years, she has also taught Shakespeare to inmates at Indiana’s Wabash Valley Correctional Facility focusing on critical thinking, interpretive analysis, and creative rewriting. She began by teaching freshman English to the general prison population. When one of her students failed to show up for class, Bates found out he had been sent to Supermax, a highly restricted unit where there was no education. Concerned and intrigued, Bates won permission from the warden to begin a voluntary program bringing Shakespeare to prisoners in solitary. Her memoir, Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard, focuses on her friendship with one of the prisoners, Larry Newton, and what Bates learned by teaching at the prison where the students responded remarkably well to Shakespeare who, literally and figuratively, saved lives there. Available in print and audio at PWPL.

In the fall of 2015, the Hogarth Shakespeare project launched a series of novels reimagining Shakespeare’s work.  Each novel will be written by a notable contemporary author who will modernize one of Shakespeare’s works. The first book in the series is Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, based on A Winter's Tale. Both the play and the new novel explore themes of love, jealousy, loss, remorse and forgiveness within families. The Gap of Time is set in London after the financial crisis of 2008 with an exiled baby daughter who is raised in a storm-ravaged American city, New Bohemia. This new telling is intelligent, powerful and insightful.

Happy April 23rd Birthday, William Shakespeare!

--Cathy Seblonka, Collection Development/Reference Librarian

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