William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future! by Ian Doescher
|William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future! by Ian Doescher|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: You don't need to speed at 88mph to get this book, but it is worth snapping up pronto.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 176||Date: April 2019|
|Publisher: Quirk Books|
|External links: Author's website|
A long time ago, in a publishing house far away, someone thought it wonderfully wacky to rewrite the story of Star Wars in Shakespearean pentameter, colliding two entirely different genres and styles in such a clever way they seemed perfectly suited. It was then duly repeated for all the other films in the main Star Wars cycle, and clearly someone's buffing their quills ready for Episode Nine, the title of which became public knowledge the day before I write. In the hiatus, however, the effort has been made to see if the same shtick works with other texts, and to riff on other seemingly unlikely source materials in iambs. And could we have anything more suitably unsuitable-seeming than Back to the Future, with its tales of time travel, bullying, and parent/child strife like no other?
If you don't know what to expect, then the basics here are that you'll get the story of BttF, as nobody is calling it, delivered in the exact same fashion as school Shakespeare volumes, with every five lines given a reference count for quoting students, stage directions, and so on. The monologuing, sonnets and exeunt-ing all go to convey the self-same story we know of old, but in a verily, er, older, manner. It's not a hindrance to read it, even if you didn't once enjoy reading Old Bill at school, and only a few too many classical allusions and references to Greek fiction and legend lets the side down, accessibility-wise.
As far as coming to it from Shakepeare's point of view, which is also fun, you get the sight of him struggling through the opening scene, and needing Marty's first monologue to describe toasters, programmable coffee machines and dog food dispensers. Before long he's also had to introduce us to skateboards and horseless cars, which he does in the expectedly erudite manner. At least the new-fangled rock'n'roll Marty plays is on a traditional lute.
But it's where the two, the original film, and the Bard of Avon, combine, that is the most fun. Hence we get as many references to Huey Lewis and the News song titles as possible before the relevant one comes upon the scene. In amongst references to Stephen King works and the outfits of Devo we see the attacking Libyans first proclaim international love and tourism, then try the if you prick us, do we not bleed? speech. And in a book self-proclaimed to be chocka with in-jokes, most of which probably came from Stratford and passed me by, it was great to see the line about someone being someone's only hope.
That riff back to the old Star Wars books in this series does prove Doescher and his output to be one of the more self-aware in publishing, but I don't think that matters. This is just a gimmick, yea – sorry, I mean yes – but it's a damn fun one. It's a sign of the post-modern world where any film that looks like having the beginnings of an entry into cultdom about it gets a post-graduate study or ten, and where people can seriously put things like Shylock and Biff Tannen in the same canon, on the same shelf. These books are flippant, a faux-academic exercise that primarily appeals to cult fans and Shakespeare obsessives alike and perhaps few others, but they're written so jovially, cleverly and so seemingly accurately that they can only get a strong recommendation.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The author's take on The Force Awakens can be found here.
You can read more book reviews or buy William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future! by Ian Doescher at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future! by Ian Doescher at Amazon.com.
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