Free Sonnet Book Giveaway!

Good news, everybody! A few weeks ago I reviewed Shakespeare’s Sonnets,  Retold by James Anthony.  This is a neat side-by-side modern translation of all the sonnets, which seemed like it would make a nice casual reference book.  Check it out, they even made a trailer:

The good folks at Crown Publishing have provided a copy for me to give away as well!  I want to do this quick, so there’s at least a possibility that the winner will receive their book before Christmas (but I can’t promise anything).  So here’s the game:

  1. I grabbed a coworker and asked for a random number between 1 and 154.
  2. I’ve taken the final couplet from the sonnet she chose (she didn’t know she was picking a sonnet), and provided the modern translation below.
  3. Tell me which sonnet this is.
  4. Entries accepted via comments on this blog post, or on Facebook.  PLEASE NOTE THAT I WILL NEED TO CONTACT YOU TO GET YOUR ADDRESS IF YOU WIN.
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly from the correct entries.  Do not post spoilers (i.e. copying the text of the actual sonnet if you think you got it right), that will invalidate your entry and I’ll almost certainly remove those comments.
  6. Contest runs until end of day on Friday, November 30.  Like I said, short one. I want to try and turn it around quickly.

Everybody ready?  Here you go!

So learn to read the signs that love can make:
Your eyes will spot my love that’s yours to take.

Just tell me what sonnet that’s from, and make sure that I’ll be able to contact you if you win, and do it all before Saturday.  Good luck!

(P.S. – I reserve the right to correct any mistakes or clarify any ambiguities in the above, blah blah blah formal stuff….)

Review : Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Retold

Translating Shakespeare’s plays into modern text is big business.  Personally I’m not a fan, it reads like one of those documents where somebody went through and hit “thesaurus” on every other word.  You get the gist of the moving the plot forward, but you lose the poetry.

So what about the sonnets? The rules are much more strict.  Keep the number of lines, keep the rhyme pattern, keep the number of syllables, keep it iambic. And keep the same meaning.  Could you do it? Could you do it 154 times?

James Anthony can, and I admit I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed. In Shakespeare’s Sonnets Retold he’s admirably taken up the challenge, and the finished product has the potential to be quite useful, and entertaining along the way.

Modern readers don’t just need help figuring out what Hamlet, Romeo, and Juliet are saying.  The sonnets aren’t exactly the most readable, either.  From fairest creatures we desire increase? What?

How about, “We strive to procreate with gorgeous folk?”

Sure, maybe some readers still have to run to the glossary for “procreate,” but the author’s got to keep it family friendly (and keep it three syllables). But the chances of the modern reader “getting it” just went up a hundredfold. Especially when you get a feel for the rest of sonnet number one:

We strive to procreate with gorgeous folk
So that our beauty won’t capitulate.
We reach a ripe old age; but then we croak.
Our memories live through offspring we create.
But you’re in love with you and you alone,
So self consumed your face is all you see
Depriving us of children of your own
And hence you are your own worst enemy.
Now you are young and walking in your prime
Well set to raise a daughter or a son
But you’re content to piss away your time
And — silly fool! — your days will soon be done.
Take pity on your world or go awry
Have children now for one day you will die.

Many times I (and I’m sure many others) have summarized the procreation sonnets (ha! I didn’t even get the connection in the first line!) as, “Hey dummy, blah blah blah you’re young and your beautiful, but you’re not going to live forever, so how about you get cracking and have some beautiful kids?” I get that message loud and clear in Anthony’s translation. The words jump out at you – children, daughter, son, offspring…ripe old age, croak, piss away your time, days are done, one day you’ll die.

I think that’s where this book has value.  Do you feel intimidated by the sonnets? I do. I have several copies of the sonnets lying around the house, it’s the kind of gift people send me. But I wouldn’t say that I’m confident in my understanding of them. There’s a handful that I have studied. For the rest it’s more like, “I think I know what that means, but I’m not sure I could teach it to someone else. Sure sounds nice, though.” Anthony’s book is the first side by side modern translation I have, so it’ll be nice to have that, “Ohhhhh, that’s what that means!” moment of revelation from time to time.

Definitely a cool addition to the collection.

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.


The Universe Loves Me And Is Trying To Kill Me

EDIT: I just realized that the beer post isn’t scheduled to go out until tomorrow.  Was everybody confused?  🙂 

And I’m ok with it.

I’ve written about how last week not one but two separate coworkers sought me out to tell me about a Shakespeare-branded beer (“ShakesBeer“).  We’re still on the hunt for that one.

This morning a different coworker tells me, “I got this chocolate bar at the supermarket that had some sort of Shakespeare quote on it. I took a picture of it for you, but it’s on my wife’s phone.”

I’m intrigued.  I knew about the beer, but the chocolate was new to me.  I googled around, found some random novelty items, and told him, “Sounds like one of those independent brands you find at Whole Foods.  Never heard of it.  But definitely tell me more!”

While waiting for his wife to get back to him I decide to throw the question out to the Twitterverse, noting that “some sort of Shakespeare quote on it” actually meant “a sonnet inside the wrapper” which is even cooler.

Twitter delivered.  Both @magpiewhale and @katep08 said that he’s surely talking about Chocolove, adding that “this brand is delicious.”

“That’s it!” says my boss.  Then he sends me this picture that he’s googled, since we have a name now:

I’m crushed.  “That’s not Shakespeare,” I tell him after reading about four words.

“I guess each one has a different poem,” he tells me.

Well, now the hunt is on.  Their website has a “find a location” section and sure enough, it’s exactly what I suspected originally – straight to Whole Foods for me!


They actually have at least half a dozen flavors, but most of them were dark chocolate and I’m not as much of a fan.  But I’m probably going to make multiple trips, who am I kidding.  I swear I felt like the kid in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, peeling open the wrapper slowly to unveil the golden ticket inside.

But did I get a Shakespeare or not?!  The suspense!I did!  Sonnet 24, to be precise.

A joyous day to be sure.  The chocolate is pretty good, but I felt twelve kinds of guilty eating it, so noting that I was only in it for the Shakespeare, I put the rest out for my coworkers. One of whom, also a Shakespeare fan, examined the outer wrapper and announced, “It doesn’t say Shakespeare anywhere on the outside. What do they think, I’m going to spend good money for Keats?!” 🙂

And yes, I have a shrine of Shakespeare action figures and bobble heads on my desk at work. Doesn’t everybody?

P.S. – Last week beer, this week chocolate.  I can’t tell if the universe loves me or is trying to kill me. Either way I’m ok with it, I’m going down happy.

P.P.S – Also!  These are apparently part of the Whole Foods / Amazon Prime program, if that’s available in your area.  So if you’ve done whatever soul selling thing you do to let Whole Foods know you’re a Prime member, you can get them at a significant discount.  In my neck of the woods it was $3.19 for a single bar but would have been $4.00 for 2 bars if I had my accounts linked.


The Great Shakespeare Book Scavenger Hunt

So a funny thing happened on the way to the Folger Library this week.

As you may have seen on other social media channels, my family and I are in Washington D.C. for a couple of days and were lucky enough to visit the Folger Library again, having been there six years ago.  I knew that even if we did not manage to arrange a tour, I could at least take the kids back to get some pictures outside.  They were pretty young at the time and I’m not sure what they remember.

So I was quite surprised when we were cruising through the various museums of the Smithsonian and in one of the gift shops my middle daughter said, “Nope, I’m saving my souvenir for Folger, I know exactly what I want.”  I assumed that she just wanted a Shakespeare something, and hinted strongly to her that we have a lot of Shakespeare somethings already.

Turns out she actually remembers seeing a book in the gift shop the first time we were there.  Apparently, and I do slightly remember this, I told her that the book was too old for her. Well, it’s six years later and she’s making a beeline for that book.

Only problem?  Folger Library gift shop is closed on Monday.

So now the dad thing kicks in, and I’ve gotta get her that book.  I checked the online version of Folger’s shop and saw nothing obvious.  It’s quite possible that they no longer carry it, or even that it is no longer in print.  I asked my daughter for more details, and here’s what she told me:

“All his romance sonnets. Very nice cover no pictures sorta paintings. Maybe roses.”

Let the hunt begin.  Anybody able to find a volume of the sonnets (may or may not be all the sonnets or just a selection, may include other works) with a cover that, to a six year old memory, is “sorta paintings, maybe roses, very nice.”


Shakespeare’s Sonnets : With 300 Years Of Commentary

I recently received a press release for Carl Atkins’ new book, Shakespeare’s Sonnets : With Three Hundred Years of Commentary.  This isn’t just another printing of the collection, this is a hefty volume that attempts to pull together and collate 17 different “scholarly editions” of the sonnets in order to compare the differences between them. Most interesting to me is that the sonnets are all published with the original spellings and punctuation in tact.  There’s even a sample file available weighing in a 78 pages, including all 154 sonnets in their original form (just none of the commentary, that’s what the book’s for). If you’re a fan of the sonnets and looking for some in depth discussion about, quite literally, every last character Shakespeare wrote, this might be the book for you.  I think I might debate the web page where it says that this is a book for everyone, including those who are getting their first time exposure to the sonnets.  It’s hard enough to read Shakespeare without every word being spelled wrong!