Weekend Adventures

Some weekends, I come back to my desk and feel like I’ve been in a completely different world for a few days. Some weekends, I feel like I’ve never left (…some weekends I don’t actually leave). This weekend was chock full of activities through which I wore a variety of different hats (literally and figuratively), and enjoyed some really awesome theatre!

Friday night, the man and I caught the opening performance of “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie”. This is a site-specific interactive piece in which an audience of twelve is invited into a room and the door is locked behind you. In the room with you is a zombie. All around the room are clues designed to help you open the door (there are five “steps” to the final process, each of which has several clues which must come together for the group

Our group shortly after being zombified

Our group shortly after being zombified

to figure it out). Oh and every five minutes, the zombie’s chain gets a little looser. You have one hour before the zombie rampages and kills you all.

The “show” (for lack of a better term) is a piece which began in Chicago and now has ten locations nationwide. The Boston location just opened and it’s in a warehouse at the industrial end of Chelsea. Just walking into the building is like stepping into a zombie flick!

We had a blast solving the puzzles. I have been sworn to secrecy by the staff of the attraction, so I won’t go into any detail here; but suffice to say that it’s quite challenging. I would highly recommend the experience to anyone with even the slightest interest in zombies, teamwork, problem solving, or fun.

Saturday, I led a swing and foxtrot tutorial for a group of dancers in New Hampshire in preparation for an awesome forties-themed photo shoot that a good friend is coordinating next weekend (don’t worry; there will be plenty of amazing pictures!). The highlight of this event, for me, was having the opportunity to be dancing again.

I worked my way through my Master’s as a ballroom dance instructor (no joke; I’m a woman of wide and sundry talents). Before that, I danced on and off for most of my life. Dance is a thing that I don’t do enough of here in Boston and it was absolutely amazing to spend an afternoon kicking up my heels. I love to teach ballroom to an appreciative audience; and this group was as eager to learn as I could have ever hoped for. Because they were already dancers, they picked up the steps quickly and asked good, productive questions. Also, it made me really think about my basic steps again (a task which I used to do a great deal of but haven’t much anymore since when was the last time I had to break down a foxtrot basic for a group of inquiring minds? Heck, when was the last time I even danced a foxtrot?) What a treat!

On Sunday, we caught Seven Stages Shakespeare Company in the encore production of their ShakesBEERience series. The ShakesBEERience performances are truly a joy: semi-rehearsed staged readings of plays which take place in taverns, breweries, and restaurants all around Portsmouth New Hampshire. These performances are free and audiences are invited to come for as much (or as little) as they like. This weekend, Seven

Artsy rendition of my drink plus playbill

Artsy rendition of my drink plus playbill

Stages performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Gas Light in Portsmouth. What was really great about this show was that it was the direct result of a collaborative effort between several different Portsmouth-based artistic groups. The Dorks in Dungeons (a role playing game inspired improvisation troupe) performed as the Rude Mechanicals. The Neoteric Dance Collective was on hand to play the fairies. There was magic, there was music, and there was so much beer.

What I really love about the ShakesBEERience effort is that it keeps Shakespeare extremely accessible. Free performances happening in low-pressure environments with a come-as-you-are attitude encourage new audiences to consider Shakespeare an experience within their reach, and even an experience that could be enjoyable. If you want to talk about new audience curation, these guys have that in the bag. Their work is community-oriented and reaches out to bring the outside in. I would highly recommend catching one of their shows (they’ve got two coming up this summer; Taming of the Shrew and Comedy of Errors).

So now I’m back at my desk, preparing to dive in to the next steps of my current project (read: dissertation). Maybe not as tried and true as foxtrots or Midsummers in bars, but definitely at least as exciting.

So… how was your weekend?

It’s the End of the World as we Know it (…I feel fine…)

Yesterday, much to the chagrin of my friends and family who weren’t in the loop (though I’m not sure precisely why they weren’t because I DID post a warning before this actually occurred), I hijacked my personal facebook feed to participate in the sixth annual “Blog like It’s the End of the World”.

This event was started in 2007 by “My Elves are Different” and takes place every year on June 13th.  The idea is that bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, and overall denizens of the internet come together to create a faux-event (namely the onset of the global zombie holocaust) via their signal-boosting power.  All day, folks are encouraged to use their digital presence to create this event and stories surrounding it.

And when you think of things that way, it becomes perhaps one of the most awesome things to occur on the internet.  For so many people, the internet is a way to connect with an outside world which is very much part of their lives, but for whatever reason they can’t attend to it daily (be it distance, invalidity, or agoraphobia).  For example: my mother, who lives in New York, keeps up with my antics via my blog and facebook feed because I update those much more frequently than I call her (oh, come on, like YOU call your mother every day).  In essence, anything I put on those feeds becomes reality for people who, like my mother, don’t see or speak with me on a daily basis.

And collaboration lends legitimacy.  Since it wasn’t just me in on the adventure and my posts were supported by those around me, suddenly it turned into something.  Just one person blogging like it’s the end of the world is an extremist piece of fiction.  Many people talking about the zombie holocaust like it’s actually happening turns into some semblance of reality.  It’s a communal fantasy which, when engaged with communally, becomes real.

So here is the story of our grand zombie adventure which occurred yesterday, as told by the facebook feed of myself, my roommate Stephanie (if you haven’t checked it out already, you should totally go look at her piece of internet fiction astroarcane…), and a few friends we picked up along the way.  A note: I wound up at the theatre last night so you’ll notice that my posts die out towards the end of the evening.  Ah, the cost of real-life living during the digital zombie apocalypse.  Many thanks to those who played along with me.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading these as much as we enjoyed writing them!

Danielle: (9:30 AM) Getting ready to roll out this morning, but it’s unusually quiet on the streets. Weird. By this hour I generally hear the kids from the school making all kinds of noise…

Danielle: (10 AM) The rain has let up, and maybe that’s what kept people from the streets. At Least I see some bodies now, but mostly folks shambling like they’re hung over or something. Odd on a Wednesday.

Danielle: (10:30 AM) Weirdest thing; on the way to the gym some guy tried to bite me! The homeless are getting really pushy these days…

Danielle: (11:30 AM) They had the TVs on at the gym and there was a lot of static coming through. Some stations were even down. Lots of news on though, and it seems like all the roads leading out of major cities are completely gridlocked. What IS going on today?

Stephanie: (11:34 AM) On my way home. This is ridiculous. Dani, let’s hit the road- I’ll pick up a flat of water en route?

Danielle: (noon) Alright, getting really nervous. Packing some things and going to pick up Stephanie at work. We’ll head north to [Friend with Guns and wilderness knowledge], he’ll have guns and stuff.

[Friend in NY]; in reply: I’ll meet you guys on the coast of Maine with [girlfriend] and The Intrepid as our floating sea fortress.

[Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge]; in reply: I’m already locked and loaded. Raided the Hannaford for canned goods and the harbor for a boat.

Danielle: (12:30 PM) I can hear some of those weirdos pounding on the garage door as I pack up the car. REALLY glad we had it replaced this year, sounds like they’re super strong.

Stephanie; in reply: Our landlord is a lifesaver, amirite? Did you have any trouble chasing [household pet] into the carrier?

Danielle; in reply: are you kidding me? Cats were the first thing to go. They’ve already been eaten by the horde.

Danielle: (1 PM) Stephanie retrieved successfully, though the cricket bat came in handy. Roads clear for now, but I’m anticipating a backup on the highway. Good thing I’m in an SUV.

Stephanie: (1:15 PM) Yeah, I’m really glad we’re in an SUV. Pile-up everywhere, and I think I just saw someone on fire. Yes. SomeONE. Danielle and I are still fine, thanks.

 [Local friend]; in reply: If there are any stragglers left, I’m going to try to grab [husband] and head up to the [family] Compound in VT. Shaw’s is a Meat Market right now (heh), so I may have to try to grab more supplies on the way. [Gay best friend], [Gay best friend’s law school fiancé] are you guys alright?

[Gay best friend’s law school fiancé]; in reply: Umm… I’m under a rock in bar exam prep-land…. what’s going on?

[Local friend]; in reply: stay under your rock if you can, until this craziness passes. Are you actually underground? That would be best. If you see shambling corpses, or someone tries to bite you, grab the heaviest Law Tome you can find and beat them with it. Then run. Quickly.

 [Gay best friend’s law school fiancé]; in reply: Ok. Constitutional Law is at the ready… If anything comes at me, they’re getting around 8 pounds of Federalism and the Fourteenth Amendment to the face.

[Gay best friend]; in reply: I’m good. Currently holed up with [other local friend]…I was wondering why the T was so empty. That would explain the random screams I heard in the way over.

Stephanie: (3PM) Danielle and I have made it into New Hampshire. Had to smash a barricade and plow over about ten shamblers. And some NH @@#*&(*^@ yokel took a potshot at our car with a SHOTGUN. [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge], [Friend in NY], we’re almost to you… hope you’re still alive.

Danielle: (3PM) …man, good thing I’m a crazy New Yorker. Definitely had to pull some Dukes of Hazard tricks out of my hat to get us out of some major issues on the highway. Don’t worry, though, Stephanie and I are nearly to the rendez vous point…. we did, however, pass many abandoned vehicles, and loads of carnage on the way. Pondering a stop at the first shop we see that’s likely to have firearms.

Stephanie: (3:15 PM) If this day gets any worse… friggin roadsitters blew out our tire! Keeping watch with axe in hand while Danielle pops on the donut… I don’t see any shamblers right now, but you never know… wish us luck, people.

Stephanie: (3:20 PM) It spit at me! Giant frog thing spit at me!!!! Auuuggghhh!!!! Tell me this

Myself and Stephanie being cool and not looking at the explosion… because cool gals don’t look at explosions….

isn’t infectious… Danielle finished swapping the tire and we’re out of here, but covered in giant zombie frog spit. Great.  I did chop off one of its legs though. Last spotted it hopping in circles. HAH.

[NY Friend with Guns]; in reply: travel safe but be careful as it seems Concord NH is being overrun. Also Cabelas is in Scarborough, ME. Tons of guns, ammo, food, camping supplies.

Stephanie; in reply: we aren’t going through Concord thank god. Scarborough though isn’t too far out of our way. [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge], [Friend in NY], you still waiting for us?

[Connecticut Friend]; in reply: Forget that, stop at the Kittery Trading Post – though a lot of people will probably be heading there.

[Housemate]; in reply: Be there soon! Keep your brains safe!

Stephanie; in reply: Oh hell no [housemate]! We’re already in Maine!

[Housemate]; in reply: Aw man, that’s so far away! It’s ok, I’ll just walk all night; I’ve been walking for a few hours ago and I don’t feel very tired, just hungry.

Danielle: (4PM) Okay we have decide to brave one last supply stop found a little mom and pop place that looks real quiet. Steph Is gonna stay behind the wheel and cover me/prepare to gun it in the event that things get not so quiet. Super glad I upped my cardio over the past few months!

Stephanie; in reply: nervous nervous nervous. Everything quiet out here…

[NY friend with guns]; in reply: Hope Danielle is still safe….

Stephanie; in reply: Roomie, why aren’t you out here yet?! Another car just pulled up…


Stephanie; in reply: brb high speed car chase can’t update status… …okay, that was not the best way to “install” a sunroof into Danielle’s car. But we’re alive. we’ll be at the rendezvous in 30 and we have ammo.

[local friend]; in reply: ‎…there are crows perched everywhere on the rooftops. Just silent, and staring. Not sure if they are alive or dead, and don’t really want to go outside to find out. I have no firearms, just hairspray and a lighter….

Danielle: (4:15 PM): Alright, out unscathed and even scored some canned goods. Was a close call though. Apparently they have learned to drive. Let’s hope they haven’t figured out swimming yet.

Danielle; in reply: Well… By “unscathed” I mean “unbitten”. Gashed my leg pretty good on my over-the-hood slide as I got back in the car. Lots of blood, but it looks clean.

[NY friend with guns]; in reply: Not good

 Stephanie; in reply: We still have med supplies, she’s managed to get it pretty cleaned up.

Danielle; in reply: looks like a good clean cut. Big, but not deep. I’m relaxing with my leg up as Stephanie takes the wheel for the rest of the drive to the rendez vous

[NY friend with guns] in reply: Good luck ladies

Danielle; in reply: Hope you’re safe, [NY friend with guns]!

[NY friend with guns]; in reply: I should be fine…One of my customers just stopped by and hes a pilot so we are going to make for the airport

Stephanie: (4:30 PM): Ugh, another roadblock. Trying to offroad it gently, Danielle has her leg up and wrapped and I don’t want to jostle. We should be meeting up with [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge] in about 15, and then we’ll be out to sea… can’t wait to be out of this.

Danielle; in reply: it’s alright, roomie. I assume that [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge] knows someone who has the basic medical capacity to stitch me up. If not, it can’t be much different than sewing a hem, right?

Stephanie; in reply: I’m actually current on my first aid / cpr certs!

Danielle; in reply: no current, but know some things myself. This is a little beyond first responder stuff though. But hey, we’ll have fire and I brought a sewing kit. Maybe [doctor friend] will meet us there. Did we think to invite her?

Stephanie; in reply: well, that would have been SMART…

 [NY friend with guns]: (4:30 PM) Going to try to get to the airport and fly up to meet Danielle and Stephanie. This island is so overrun its crazy.

Stephanie; in reply: Careful in the skies. We spotted some fliers earlier.

[NY friend with guns]; in reply: Yeah, he flies an old WWII fighter and he thinks theres so ammo at the army base near by. Ill keep an eye out for swimmers…Zombie fish would not be good.

Danielle; in reply: We’ll wave a red flag emblazoned with a black stag. That’s how you’ll find us.

Stephanie: (4:45 PM) That was close.  Danielle and I are loading up our supplies onto [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge]’s boat. I can’t wait to be safely out to sea away from these THINGS. Hope someone has a can opener…

[Connecticut Friend]; in reply: You can open any food can with a soup spoon. You’ll be fine. PS – giant frog things likely swim. Just a head’s up.

Stephanie; in reply: Are you and the fam OK?

[Connecticut Friend]; in reply: We’ve got food for a week and water for three weeks (if we don’t flush or shower), I’ve barricaded all doors and first floor windows, and I’ve stocked weapons. Infirmary is downstairs. I have access to the kitchen (with a generator if the power goes), the chemistry closet (as long as the internet stays up), and the maintenance barn (for more weapons if needed). I may take a run out for firearms, but we’re good for now.

Danielle; in reply: let us know if you need backup. We can organize a rendez vous point provided I survive this jungle surgery….

Stephanie; in reply: Yeah, but it can’t be Bridgeport – Long Island Sound is crawling with frog-things, I just heard.

[Connecticut Friend]; in reply: We should be good, but feel free to head this way. Rural area, large campus, lots of food and water sources. Also, I have a copy of The Colony on DVD…..

Danielle: (5PM): that was close. Managed to make the rendez vous point and caught [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge] and [his girlfriend] via boat. Stephanie had a heroic gun-fight with some damn smart shamblers while we loaded the supplies. We’re going to swing down South to pick up [NY friend], [his girlfriend], and [NY friend with guns]. Wish us luck!

[Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge]; in reply: I hope your leg wound isn’t a bite. I will toss your overboard for the greater good

Stephanie; in reply: I can back her up that it was a scrape from the hood of the car, I saw it happen. And I think she’d want it that way,

Danielle; in reply: Yes, if I start to change, shoot me in the head. But really, it’s too clean to be a bite.

 [Gay best fried]; in reply: If you can buzz by the harbor in Boston, can I jump on. Just made my way to downtown Boston, been clobbering things…but my arm is getting tired…Faneuil Hall is a mess, I almost slipped an fell in blood. Good thing I wore my boots.

Stephanie; in reply: are the ferries still running? If you can get out to one of the Harbor Islands, that’ll be a safer pickup than the Harbor proper. Not to say we won’t do it for you…

[Gay best friend]; in reply: I’ve located a kayak, and am en route to one of the said islands. Thankfully the waterfront is quieter here, most of the shamblers have moved inward toward the city proper. That and the smell of fish is covering my scent, I think.

Danielle: (5PM) Now that we’re safe on the boat, going to attend to that leg wound of mine. Fire is nature’s sterilizer, right? You know, I didn’t wake up this morning thinking that I’d be living an action flick by dinner, but I guess there’s no time like the present to get over your fear of needles and stitch yourself up.

Stephanie; in reply: I got you, roomie. We got this.

[Connecticut friend]; in reply: Don’t cauterize! Use alcohol!

Danielle; in reply: oh, I meant for the needle. Here we go…

[NY bartender friend]: (5PM) Still waiting for [NY friend with guns] to swing by and pick me up. Those bastards have been clawing at my door for hours now! Only bringing the essentials. Guns, ammo, hair gel and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue. If I find out he went for those two floozies Stephanie and Danielle first, i’ll kill him.

 Stephanie; in reply: Nice priorities, bro.

[NY friend with guns]; in reply: Ladies, should I pick him up?

Stephanie; in reply: Only if it’s not too out of your way. I do like Johnnie Blue.

[NY friend with guns]; in reply: OK on my way now, [NY bartender friend].

Stephanie; in reply: could really use a PLANE shooting BULLETS at these ZOMBIES DRESSED LIKE PIRATES anytime now… actually hold that I think we just cleared the last of them

 [NY bartender friend]; in reply: Don’t bother [NY friend with guns]. I’m waiting for my cruise to arrive….I guess you could wait with me.

Stephanie: (5:30 PM) This is almost relaxing. Haven’t spotted any zombies in nearly half an hour. Danielle is dozing a little – she deserves it, didn’t scream at all when we stitched her up. All is quiet, [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge] at the helm of the boat…

Stephanie: (7 PM) Weird… just spotted 3-5 boats coming up on us fast. Not sure if friendly or not… better wake up Danielle and see what [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge] thinks. It might be [NY friend] and [his girlfriend], so I don’t want to overreact…

 Stephanie; in reply: definitely not friends. brb, high speed boat chase scene

[NY bartender friend]; in reply: Well shit, if you already have a boat, swing around down to the island. I’ll meet you at Captree. I don’t know how much longer I can wait on [NY friend with guns].

Stephanie; in reply: Captree should be doable – that’s on the south side of the Island right? Avoid the Sound – crawling with the giant frog zombie things. They spit! Brb hail of bullets…

[NY bartender friend]; in reply: Yes. Follow Fire Island and turn in between Robert Moses and Gilgo State Park. I’ll be upstairs in the Captree Cove restaurant. I’ll let you know if anything changes

Stephanie; in reply: will do after picking up [Gay best friend] – a few hours – argh crap brb

[Connecticut friend]; in reply: If you put in around New London, you can make it up here – just a few hours of driving. You can probably pick up a vehicle from the casino valet parking…. We just had an influx of guns and supplies from a local colleague. We’re going to start barricading the dining hall – it’s got a generator, and can fit roughly 200 people upstairs.

[NY bartender friend]; in reply: Sure thing [Connecticut friend], right after she swings by to get me. Noooooo problem.

[Connecticut friend]; in reply: Hey, just trying to help – frankly, you’re more mouths to feed….

Stephanie: (8PM) Holy cripes… I think [Friend with guns and wilderness knowledge], Danielle, and I just finished off the last of these zombies (dressed like pirates, of all things). Boat still good for gas; time to swing by the Harbor Islands and pick up [Gay best friend], Then on to [NY bartender friend]…

Stephanie: (8:30 PM) Have acquired [Gay best friend] and are on way to [NY bartender friend]. All quiet for now. Keep feeling like this only means it’ll get worse once the sun sets…

Stephanie: (9:30 PM) Fuel starting to get low. Trading some rounds for gas; this boat man is really wary. Think he’d be starting something if we weren’t so well armed… Almost to [NY bartender friend] and [NY friend with Guns].

Stephanie: (11 PM) Pulling up on where [NY bartender friend] is holed up. It’s dark. I think I see zomfrogs hopping… Ugh. Time for plan B for blow em away?

[NY Bartender friend]; in reply: No frogs near the docks. Make sure they don’t hitch a ride in with you or else we are in trouble. Just took out a walker that looked like the Gordens fisherman.

[Gay Best Friend]; in reply: If we go back to back we should be OK. Just don’t let any goo in your mouth.

[“Good Idea” friend]; in reply: did you get any fuel , diesel , tapioca ,and fertilizer … if so find a couple of jars or empty the blue out , put a cup of diesel in , cup of tapioca pelts , stir fill rest to about with rocks to about two thirds, strip out a cloth , fill rest with fert. turn upside down fast a couple of times hold side ways light and toss at the bastards… losing light going in forty jars made … plenty of ammo nice pc of hickory … right beside the beds. getem gang wish i could be there . have you figured a way to get the batteries charged out here .

Danielle: (midnight) Okay folks, after a successful Frog-o-cide courtesy of [“Good Idea” friend]’s special cocktail, I’m happy to report that we are all Safe afloat the good ship Pinafore. Hopefully this will all have blown over by tomorrow.

Is This the Beginning of Zombie Shakespeare?

I just got done with a dramaturgy session with my director for Measure for Measure (the show I’m dramaturging this year at Tufts and keep promising to fill you in on).  During the drive home, I was all prepared to write a nice long post about the process, how things are going, what a dramaturge actually does, etc.

…but then one of my friends posted this trailer on my facebook wall which clearly made it all but impossible to do anything but comment upon it.

I’m so egregiously excited that I’m having trouble formulating words.  Zombies?  Hamlet?  Spoof movies?  These are a few of my favorite things.  Add chocolate peanut butter, yarn, and shopping and you’d have a giant ball of Dani-crack.

I will begin with the following confession: I have seen nothing more about this film than this trailer.  I’ve done a small amount of research just to try and ground myself in some film-facts and figure out when it will be released to the general public (no answer as of now, by the way, much to my chagrin and dissatisfaction).

But based on what I’ve seen, I couldn’t be more excited if I tried.  A movie that deals with Shakespeare reverently but playfully?  A movie that makes fun of itself while simultaneously touting some good old fashioned Shakespearean values?  A movie that has the potential to be one of the most hilarious Shakes-scene of our times?

The film’s basic premise is that a group of indie film-makers want to make a version of Hamlet but lack the budget for a Kenneth Brannaugh-esque period piece.  Jokingly, they say the only thing they could make on their given budget is a B zombie film… so they solve their problem with a creative re-mix of both.  Midway through, their backer is found dead and so they become enrapt in a plot to cover up her death to ensure a green light for their film.  I’m sure that this causes plenty of outside complications as well, but I’m less concerned about those at the moment.

With the prospect of a zombie Hamlet, My mind immediately jumped to the possibility of the Norwegians being zombies led by a sort of lich-lord Fortinbras.  Denmark could almost literally become a prison due to high security measures set in place in order to prevent further zombie invasions and, upon the collapse of the court at the end, the zombie masses enter to find the corpses of the Denmarkian royalty.

The inclusion of zombies also problematizes death within the play.  What kind of outbreak are we dealing with?  Runners or Shamblers?  Nanovirus or witch doctors?  If nanovirus, then Claudius could well be made into an arch-villain having infected King Hamlet with the virus and making him patient zero of the outbreak.  Hamlet’s ghost could instead be a return of the shambling King as a sort of covert super-zombie come to wreck revenge upon the individual responsible for the attack.  If Witch Doctor induced, there could still be a measure of this creation-against-creator as King Hamlet would be unable to lift a hand against his Lord and Master now-King Cladius and thus must have his son act as agent.  Alternately, in a world where zombies are created by magic, ghosts become equally plausible.  King Hamlet could be a sort of revenant, requiring a flesh body to perform deeds upon the living and thus spurring his son to the task.

 This also complicates Hamlet’s killing of Polonius, as when he hears a rustling in the curtains of his mother’s bedchamber he could potentially believe it to be an undead foe and, thereby, shoot said foe in the head before it leapt out to attack.  Polonius becomes an unfortunate victim of the country’s political strife as opposed to the sacrificial lamb of Hamlet’s madness.

Ophelia’s death is similarly complicated, and the possibilities innate in a zombie-infested Denmark make richer her last scene in which she appears onstage having run mad.  Perhaps she has been bitten by her risen-from-the-dead father and her not-quite-a-zombie-yet fever is the cause of her madness.  Alternately, anyone can go crazy in the world of the zombie holocaust.  The uncaniness of the walking dead and the permeation of casual death into society will just do that to a person.

Also; what does this mean for Act V?  Does the royal court lay dead at the feet of the zombie invaders only to rise themselves as mindless brain-nommers?  Is Horatio the only human left alive in a world now peopled by the walking dead?

Since the film isn’t actually a zombie version of Hamlet but rather about the making of a zombie Hamlet, I don’t truly expect my questions to be answered.  I do, however, very much look forward to seeing it and firmly believe that I will have found a new go-to “bad day” movie.

…and if anyone has the money and inclination to actually direct a production of Hamlet set

“…Is this the end of Zombie Shakespeare?”

during the zombie holocaust, please oh please oh please hire me.  I’ll do anything to be involved in that production.  I’ll even put myself on your line and audition to be a piece of meat… I mean… actor.  But mostly, I want to find a reason to have to research what kind of duel you would possibly be able to stage while the zombie hoards were shambling at your door.  Pistols won’t cut it due to the multiple touches, but I could definitely see claymores or battleaxes coming in handy and thereby the Princes being versed in their usage… or maybe bludgeoning weapons are the way to go since cricket bats are definitely a staple of the zombie genre.  That, however, would complicate the poison premise, but we could maybe make it work somehow…

My Undying Love

Ah February; the semester’s well underway, I can see myself through to spring break, but it’s not quite finals season yet so the inevitable end-o-semester panic hasn’t set in.

Every February you go about your business, your everyday life, your chores and things, blissfully unaware that anything out of the ordinary is about to happen to you.  And somehow, it does.  It creeps in – slowly at first so that you don’t even notice it.  It begins to take over certain aisles in the grocery store, the bookstore, the coffee shop.  It begins to sneak into your everyday life waiting, just waiting, for the opportune moment to strike.

And then, just when you’re least expecting it, BLAM in your face like a ton of bricks.  Facebook blows up, it’s all anyone can tweet about, and there’s just no escaping it every year.

Every.  Single.  Year.

I hate Valentine’s Day.

Ever since I was a wee Danielle I’ve hated Valentine’s Day.  At first it’s no big thing, right?  An excuse to decorate a cardboard box and pick out those paper valentines to give to your classmates.  An excuse to eat chocolate and those awful chalky conversation hearts.

But then, gradually, as you grow into the awareness that not everyone gives everyone a valentine and why are the popular girls so special because they have boyfriends and I’m still sitting at the geek table and oh god why don’t I have a boyfriend and wait, every guy I know is gay, I couldn’t have a boyfriend even if I tried and why does it happen to me every single February that I conveniently manage to be between any semblance of a relationship and what am I doing wrong with my life?

Some years I manage to forget it’s coming and every year I convince myself that I’ve steeled myself against it.  A stupid holiday really.  An excuse to sell and buy stuff.  Why would you need a specific day to tell anyone that you love them, shouldn’t you love them every day?

I’ve heard enough arguments against Valentine’s day (and I’m sure you’ve heard them too) that I’m not going to re-capitulate them.  Suffice to say that, as a perpetually single person, they all ring like empty platitudes in the grand canyons of emo that is single-girl-self-pity.  Inevitably, no matter what I do, I wind up sniveling into a bottle of wine at the end of the night telling myself that it’s okay because I love me and that’s all that matters really.

It has not escaped my attention that there is no small amount of irony that a self-professed lover of all things about The Greatest Lover of the English Language hates a day which should be filled to the brim with Shakes-scene.

So for that, and for everyone out there who is single today, and for everyone out there who is likely going to spend the night with a chick flick and a box of chocolates they bought themselves, and for everyone out there who is feeling a little down because the people around them who are all “oh, it’s no big deal” even though they are still taking someone out to dinner tonight and thereby have no clue how big a deal it is, I’ll say this: this year, Shakespeare loves you.

No, really, he loves you.  Truly, madly, often ironically, the Bard is here to profess his deep and undying love for you.  Excuse me as I get out my literary ouija board…

“Doubt that the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”
-Hamlet, Hamlet, 1.2

“One half of me is yours, the other half yours
Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours,
And so all yours.”

            -Portia, Merchant of Venice, 3.2

“O, could this kiss be printed in thy hand,
That thou mightst think upon these by the seal,
Through whom a thousand sighs are breathed for thee!”

            -Queen Margaret, Henry VI ii, 3.2

“Hear my soul speak:
The very instant that I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service.”

            -Ferdinand, The Tempest, 3.1

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”
-Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1.1

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

            -Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, 2.2

Also, as a present from me, I give you one of my favorite comedic pieces.  I even dressed up for the occasion (got out of my PJs for you today, folks!).  This is Berowne, Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1.1.  (…Apologies for the less-than-optimal video quality.  All I’ve got is my little mac.  Enjoy!)

Have a happy Single Awareness Day!

To Liberty, not to Banishment!


Today is an historic day my friends.

A day, as they say, that will live in infamy.  A day for the books.  A day to be celebrated.  A day of wonder and joy.

Today, I turn in the last two finals of my first semester.  Turn in.  Done.  Can’t look at them anymore, won’t look at them anymore, goodbye, see you next year, adios, hate to see you leave but love to watch you go.

I can’t say it hasn’t been a bumpy ride.  This semester has had its trials, its tribulations, its joys, its sorrows, its mysteriously unexplainable illnesses which the doctors are still scratching their heads over…

But I did it.  And I’m still standing (though barely due to aforementioned mysterious illness).  As of this afternoon, I will be free to enjoy a few weeks of working on other projects and reading things that I want to read before I dive back into the fray in January.

For now, let’s have a look at the things that I’ve done this semester.  A re-cap, if you will; a sentimental journey into the past three and a half months.

I have seen seven plays (not bad, but not great… will do better next semester).

I have read four leisure books (before you start casting aspersions, remember that this is reading I did when I wasn’t in class, sleeping, reading for class, researching, or writing papers.  Considering these books average about seven hundred pages a pop, I think that’s pretty darn good).

At the peak of my book hoarding, I had forty-seven simultaneously checked out library books.  Every semester, I mean to do a count of total books checked out but this isn’t as easy to manage as you may think.  I have a revolving door for library books and sometimes only keep a book for a single day before returning it… I really have to develop a more sophisticated tracking system.

I can’t even begin to approximate the number of pages I have read.  Again, every semester I mean to develop a system to figure this out (either to scare or impress myself, I’m not certain which).  I’m open to suggestions about either of these systems in hopes that next semester I can have an actual counter… and maybe a progress bar or something.

I have produced eighty-two pages of turn-in-able scholarly writing (if you think about that as a breakdown of pages per day I’m averaging 1.17 pages per semester day; not counting the blog or leisure writing.  That’s pretty darn impressive, if you ask me!).

I have conducted my first bit of research based in interviews with real live people.

I have produced my first bit of turn-in-able scholarly research based solely in archive work.

I have narrowly avoided being eaten by velociraptors.

I have landed my first gig writing something to be published (book review, forthcoming, not a huge thing but it’s definitely a start!)

I have, on the whole, survived, more or less intact.  This, again, is a gigantic feat.  For many days, my mantra was “don’t worry, you’re a first year, you’re only expected to survive.  Keep plugging.  Don’t fret.  Just keep going.”  Hey, look, with the strategic application of that mantra, I did survive!

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go turn in my last papers for the semester.  Then I’m going to go read something involving zombies and having no scholarly value whatsoever.  Then I’m going to watch a movie that has nothing to do with my research or area of expertise.

Winter break, she is here at last.

A Plague on Both your Houses

So I have this problem….(you know, I really wish I could go back through and easily determine how many blog posts I’ve written in the last year which begin with that phrase).

Inevitably, every year, no matter what else is going on in my life, no matter how well I’m handling things, no matter how tranquil I seem on the outside, I get sick during finals time.  If it’s a particularly stressful midterms time, I get sick then too.

I think the worst part is there is actually nothing I can do about this.  I am a healthy individual.  I work out regularly, my diet is bountiful with vegetables and lean proteins, I limit my carb and sugar intake, and I keep a good balance of work and fun in my life (it helps that I consider “going to the library” a “fun” activity).  I’m convinced that I could be the Buddha and still have this problem.  Even reaching a state of complete and utter spiritual nirvana would not save me from the finals crud.

Oh and even better than that; it’s not just normal sick.  Oh no.  That is FAR too maudlin for

Some year, it's going to be the zombie virus. My finals crud will be the start of the zombie holocaust.

this diva body apparently.  Every year I churn out a new and improved illness that is a perplexing case study for the medical profession at large.  I don’t just get a cold, I get the untreatable cold from hell that doesn’t respond to any medication (even symptom-relieving stuff that SHOULD WORK DAMMIT!).  I don’t just get a flu, I get the undiagnosable flu that Persephone got upon her first visit to the underworld and that’s why she had to eat the pomegranate because there was nothing else she could eat at the time and this flu has never since been heard from in myth or reality but oh man will it make some Medical Resident’s year that they have discovered another case of it!
Previous finals-time illnesses have included (but are not limited to): shingles (yes, people do get shingles… apparently the chicken pox virus attaches itself to your brain stem and outbreaks of shingles can be triggered by any number of things including stress), mono (yes, you can give yourself mono… all the bed-ridden splendor and none the fun-yet-apparently-not-required extracurricular activities that are supposed to precede it), and an undiagnosable eye problem which resulted in my vision fluctuating so wildly that I thought I was losing it and twelve (count them, TWELVE) trips to the eye doctor before they were able to figure out what the heck was going on.

So it just figures that, since I’m in the home stretch of finals, since my birthday is on Sunday and I have a full weekend of celebrating planned (including a requisite booze-a-thon which I will hopefully be able to participate in as my meds will have worn off by then), since I was handling things so well before some cosmic force decided to inexplicably add another thing on top of my teetering pile of stuff I’m juggling, I’m on day seven of the apparently untreatable illness from hell.

I’ve been two rounds of meds already for this (one the preliminary over-the-counter, the second prescription) and had my second doctor’s visit this morning (from which I emerged clutching a veritable atomic bomb of medication in hopes that this will clear things up).  I have missed a week at the gym, four pre-planned social activities, one day of classes, and countless hours of productive time at my computer spent otherwise curled up in a miserable ball on my couch.

There are few things more infuriating (and more devastating) than betrayal.  And the worst kind of betrayal is betrayal from the inside.  It’s not even like I can keelhaul my mutinous body for breaking down over something that my clearly superior mind had well in hand.

I’m working through the misery as best I can.  Really my body needs to recognize that slowing me down is doing it no favors as that simply makes me MORE rather than LESS stressed out.

I promise, body, there is a rest in your future…. Just not until after the holidays.  Stay with me for at least two more weeks, then at least you can collapse in a pile of mush for a few days before we sweep off to fulfill family obligations and spend the break making conference papers readable and getting a jump on the comps list and searching for publication venues and fellowship hunting…

….at least we can do most of that in our pajamas.  Pajamas, like muppets, make everything a little more tolerable.

Raiders of the Lost Archive

This week’s adventure was brought to you by the words “Police”, “Microfiche” and “archive”.

So…. Have you heard about occupy Harvard?

…yea neither had I until I wound up in the middle of it this week.

The Harvard Theatre Collection is the largest and oldest archive of its kind in the United States (debatably the world).  They have all kinds of crazy and wonderful things, and it’s where I’m doing the majority of my research for one of my projects this semester.  This last trip to the archive is probably my last before I start writing, but I needed to digitize some microfilm (I know, my life is so exciting).  So I went.

Well, much to my amazement, the campus was on lockdown.  Being a New Yorker, I turned to my “deal with authority figures” survival instincts and whipped out the photo ID most likely to work (my Harvard special borrowers card), took out my headphones, gave the guards my most unassuming smile, and wha-bam had access to the yard.  No big deal.

The yard was quiet and there was a tent city set up on the far end of it.  At this point, my mind leapt to the most likely possibility: that the Harvard students simply could no longer

you can't tell me that this wouldn't perk up any "occupy" movement

afford exorbitant Harvard dorming and thereby were forced to make a make-shift hooverville within the yard.  The police were there, obviously, to stop and wandering gypsies who may get ideas about joining said hooverville.  Unless the gypsies had valid Harvard IDs in which case they were welcome to set up their wagons and perform peacefully (if loudly) for the masses.

I mean, it was a little odd, but nothing I haven’t dealt with before.

What came next was even weirder.

So despite having the nicest reading room with matching oak bookcases that I have ever been in as well as the most fancy bathrooms (seriously… their bathrooms are nicer than most apartments I’ve lived in), Houghton Library’s microfiche reader is a piece of donkey dung.  I get the feeling that they got the one that kind-of worked and thereby couldn’t be thrown away but nobody really wanted in their library so they sent it to the corner of Houghton.  This wouldn’t be a problem if the Houghton people weren’t emphatic about requesting microfiche copies of volumes when possible.

A critical piece of my current research is on microfiche.  This was going to be an issue.

After seeing the oh-so-fancy office-paper-and-handwritten “broken” sign on the printer by the microfiche reader, I inquired about the possibility of printing from microfiche.  The archivist informed me that this process had to be taken care of in Lamont library, the next building over.  “Oh.”  I said, “So I fill out a request sheet and they send my materials there, I pick them up and deal with them?”

“No.”  She said, “You take them there yourself.”

What?  Wait… no… WHAT!?  Like… remove materials from the archive?  With my own two hands?

You have to understand.  Reading rooms at these places are probably the most secure rooms in the university.  They post guards at the door, you need special ID to get in, you can only take certain things into the reading room (at Harvard you may take: a notebook, a laptop (but not the case), pencils, and your digital camera (but not the case)), they have buzz-you-in-from-both-sides doors, and they search your stuff when you leave.  I was going to REMOVE MATERIAL FROM THIS PLACE?

“Yea.”  The archivist said.  “I mean… it’s only microfiche.”

I guess that brought a little perspective to what I was doing.  After all, microfiche is secondary material… not really of any value since it’s not original and requires special equipment to deal with…

Steeling my nerve, I accepted the forms informing all involved security guards that yes, I was authorized to carry around these two rolls of golden microfiche for the afternoon and no, I wasn’t stealing them.

Feeling like I was carrying a case full of jewels and a bomb simultaneously, I worked my way out of the reading room and to Lamont.

So…. Funny thing about microfiche… it’s not glamorous.  At all.  And it doesn’t really require special conditions to be stored.  As a result, it gets foisted to the least appealing section of the library.  At Harvard, it’s in a sub-basement with few lights and locked wire storage cages at the back.  When I arrived in the sub-basement, there was one other student there.  I was somewhat glad because it meant that I had someone to throw at the

...and there wasn't even a counter to hide under!

inevitable zombies or velociraptors which would attack me because I had managed to find my way into their lair.  This other researcher proved doubly unnerving because, after a brief tour around the place, I realized that he disappeared completely without making a sound.  Standing, now alone, in the flickering fluorescent tube lights, I realized that I had to get out of there.  Now.  What if the velociraptors were particularly hungry that day?  What if they just had a penchant for stealing precious microfiche?  Then I would be found out!  Booted!  Clearly I wasn’t really a member of the academy because I fell for the old “velociraptors in the basement steal your archival material” trick!

Thankfully, I realized fairly quickly that while the microfiche lived in the sub-basement, the microfiche scanners lived on the main floor of the building (one of the ones with oak bookcases, comfy chairs, and professional velociraptor handlers… I mean librarians).  I made my escape as quickly as I could, clutching the microfiche to my chest in an attempt to hide its token scent.

And actually, microfiche digitizing scanners are pretty nifty!  I had a grand old time using them, and managed to return the microfiche unscathed to the archives before they closed.

Oh and I saw some Tibetan monks trying to gain access to Harvard but being turned away

You can't make this stuff up, folks.

by the police on my way out.  Maybe that’s why the velociraptors weren’t in the sub-basement… they were otherwise employed at the gates of Harvard keeping the gypsies and Tibetan monks from gaining access to the sacred yard.

“It doth forget to do the thing it should”

This week’s been hot for my research.

The buzz of being onto something is really incomparable.  There’s a nervousness compounded with an anticipation and a rush of adrenaline when you realize that you’ve found some topic that other people don’t seem to be talking about.  Then there’s this fear that well, maybe they’re not talking about it because it’s SO OBVIOUSLY OBVIOUS and EVERYBODY knows that and you’re a complete idiot for even thinking that there may be some unanswered question as to what you’re working on.

I’m stuck right now in a valley of no return.  I can’t go back because, well, I’m walking an (as far as I can tell) unforged path, but at the same time I’m wondering how very far I’ll be able to leapfrog down this path and where it may take me.  I have some vague notions, some of them more exciting than others, but in my experience with research (as with life) you never really know until you get there.

This week I was trying to articulate said feeling to a colleague of mine.  We were having the

oh hello, Hogwarts, I didn't realize that you were in Boston! (courtyard at the BPL)

inevitable “where are you with your projects?” moot during a trip to the Boston Public Library (BEAUTIFUL and WONDERFUL by the by, and totally worth checking out if you like books or pretty architecture or reading books while surrounded by pretty architecture).  I mentioned that I had found something… something that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of.  Something that no one else seems to have worked on yet.  Something that I was getting somewhere with.

And he asked me the dreaded question which sent me into a Southward tailspin.  “Is it important?”

I blinked at him a few times, taken aback by the question.  It is important?  Oh the implications of this!  First off, I couldn’t understand how I had gotten so far stuck down the hole of research that I had lost track of the outside world.  How could I lose sight of some bigger picture?  How could I be so focused on such small details that I failed to see the whole?  Of course no one’s written about it, it just may not be all that important!

Then I found myself in this semantic existential crisis questioning everything I knew.  What

Is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?

was “important”?  How do you define “important”?  I mean, forchrisakes, we spend our days reading and writing about theatre.  Theatre never made dinner.  Theatre doesn’t even really make money.  And what’s worse, most of us spend more of our time talking about theatre rather than making theatre these days.  We’re intellectual hacks.  In the eventuality of zombie holocaust, we’re pretty much the top of the list of “zombie bait” because we have nothing to add to the post-apocalyptic human existence and we don’t even have any practical skills.  So really, “important”?  How can anything we do (or fail to do) really and truly be “important”?

Then I began to come up with excuses to justify my research.  It has to do with Shakespeare and Shakespeare is obviously important!  Everyone knows Shakespeare!  Everyone loves Shakespeare!  He’s the most-quoted creator of literature the world-over!  Just about every nation has appropriated him as their own!  Without Shakespeare, the English language wouldn’t exist as we know it today, so clearly what I’m doing as a small subset of this gigantic whole is obviously extremely important.

Then I wondered why it even mattered.  This is a seminar paper for a research methodologies course.  More important than what I find is how I managed to find it.  How did I solve my problems along the way?  What tactics did I use to solve these problems?  If I make a breakthrough and manage to produce something landmark, that’s frosting on the cake (what’s a cake without frosting?  Maybe I should be making a landmark breakthrough… everyone will be disappointed if there’s a cake with no frosting…. Wait, hang on, maybe it’s angel food cake which does not require frosting to be good… I can live with that).

though apparently my man Will can handle the zombies for me.

So I answered the only way I knew how.  “I don’t know.”  It was truth.  Pure and simple.  At this stage of the game, my research could be anything.  The important thing is that it’s interesting, it’s engaging, it keeps me busy, and I’m not chasing my tail as I grind grind grind away.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the archive to do some more digging.  Maybe in a few

weeks I’ll get back to this question of importance.  For now, I’m glad to have had the reality check and I’m super glad that there are no zombies at my window.

Summer Readin’ (Had Me a Blast)

If you’re like me, summertime is an excuse to catch up on some much-needed sanity.

There are no papers to write, no required reading for the week, no classes to attend, and the long days are filled with what seems like hours upon hours of free time because even if you have to work a real job, by cutting out the demands of the rest of your life (i.e.: school) at least you have several more hours in the week with which to play.  And your brain isn’t chewing on the most recent class discussion or assignment, so you’ve got plenty of free processing space.  This can only mean one thing: time for some summer reading.

I recognize that the vast majority of the world isn’t like me.  Despite that, there is something wonderfully nostalgic about summer reading.  As a culture, we are brought up to associate summertime with semi-assigned reading time that at least gives the illusion of choice.  However, once freed from the clutches of primary school, we find ourselves adrift in a sea of choices.  Too many, in fact.  Do we read what Oprah tells us to, the New York Times tells us to, our friends, the local bookstore, amazon.com?

As a regular person (and not a super geek), often times there are things that we know we should get around to reading but simply have not done so.  Classics, conversation pieces, bits of literati that we feel should have a place in our lives but for some reason don’t.

Based upon the precepts that you are a regular person, you like to read, but you don’t like ridiculously thick prose or buzz words the size of my forearm, today I am compiling a list of summer reading for you.  Obviously this is biased by my own personal tastes, but I have tried to include as broad a spectrum as possible.  The only rule which I strictly adhered to is Novels Only.  A novella or two snuck in, but there are no plays or pieces of poetry here.  My reasoning is that summer reading should be easy.  It shouldn’t take mental exertion to get through (though perhaps it does provide some food for thought).  Plays and poetry are different beasts from novels and thereby would require mindsets which definitely deviate from the sentiment of summer reading.

This is in no particular order of importance, though I tried to make it have some sense of progression wherever possible.

Book reports will be expected the second week in September (though I may not get around to grading them until winter break).


1)     Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut; Every.  Human.  Being.  Should.  Read.  This.  Book.  Period.  It has a broad smattering of topics: World War Two, Vietnam, Time Travel, Aliens, and heart-wrenching statements about humanity.  It’s a quick read, an engaging novel, and an interesting story.  It’s also one of Vonnegut’s most easy to digest pieces (his writing style can be a bit disorienting at times, but that works for this book).  Vonnegut is one of the great novel-writers of the twentieth century and I sincerely believe that reading a piece of his is pivotal to the modern American mind.  And there are several quotable catch-phrases from this book that you can whip out to impress your literary friends once you’re through.

2)      Pride and Prejudice with or without zombies  by Jane Austen or Seth Grahame-Smith;  No, watching the Colin Firth movie does not count (though

Lizzy Bennet kicks some serious undead hiney

could get you bonus points if you read the book first).  Come on, you haven’t read this book?  You’ve sat through a Julia Roberts movie and you haven’t read this book?  Man up and take it like a champ.  You may just wind up being entertained.  The zombie version is a really cute bit of Austen-mania and totally worth the read once you’ve read the original.  Yes, you’ll get the humor if you haven’t read Austen’s version first, but it’ll make you feel morally superior to read them in sequence.  Trust me, a sure-fire way to make yourself feel smarter.

3)      Anything by Toni Morrison.  It may be worth having a look back at my thoughts on this most talented of American writers before you set out on this endeavor.  No, her books aren’t pretty.  They’re not pleasant.  They’re not polite, and they make you feel uncomfortable.  But they are literature at its best, folks.  Of the published authors alive today, Toni Morrison is (in my opinion) the greatest.

4)      Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift;  This is particularly prime summer reading since it is a travelogue of its own sort.  Swift’s sense of humor is generally shocking to a modern audience, so be forewarned about the immense amount of fart and poop jokes that you are about to encounter.  To me, they’re the highlight of the novel (YES!  Eighteenth century fart and poop jokes!).  This one also comes with a snob-rating since the story is so frequently re-told in our culture.  Wouldn’t you like to know what really happened to poor old Lemuel Gulliver rather than rely upon Jack Black to tell you?  If you’re in a Swift mood, you may also want to look up his essay “A Modest Proposal” and give it a whirl.  It’s easily one of my favorite short bits of literature…

5)     Dracula by Bram Stoker;  Since we’re talking Irish authors, let’s give good ol’ Bram a shout-out.  Another fantasy-travel-novel, Dracula is perhaps most famous for its portrayal of Christopher Lee… or perhaps the other way

eat your heart out, Robert Pattinson

around.  This novel’s epistolary form marks it as a piece of a definite literary movement (epistolary was immensely popular in the eighteenth century, so it marks this piece as having a definite “vintage” feel even for a reader contemporary to its publishing).  Best perk to reading this book: it makes you measurably superior to a Twilight fan.

6)      Frankenstein by Mary Shelley;  While we’re talking about epistolary Gothic novels, let’s throw this one in there.  Abandon all thoughts of Boris Karloff (and even Kenneth Branagh).  Film adaptations of this cultural phenomenon hit NOWHERE NEAR the actual thing.  Consider them utterly unimaginative bits of fanfic.  You don’t know Frankenstein until you’ve Shelley’s novel.  Extra literary factoid: there are two editions of this text which vary enough that literati have constant debates about them.  The 1818 edition (near and dear to my heart) is an edition which some say was heavily edited by Mary’s husband Percy Shelley.  Its introduction is written by him pretending to be her.  We do know that he looked over the manuscript, but the exact degree of his red-penning is difficult to determine.  The 1831 edition was published after Percy’s death and includes a preface from Mary herself (available at the back of most critical texts).  Mary claims that this edition is closer to what she first meant to write, but since the 1818 text received so much criticism when it was released it is hard to say whether Mary was simply bowing to that criticism or genuine in her sentiments.  Either way, do get your hands on a copy and read it!

7)      The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; This is an especially good book to read if you are in a time of transition.  It’s a novel-length allegory and is full of beautiful, inspiring thoughts.  Personally, I was resistant at first to a novel which (as I perceived it) tried to preach to me about what I should and should not do, but boy was I missing out on some lovely and wonderful new ways to perceive things.  It’s not a how-to guide, it’s a road map.  Think of it that way and it’ll make the entire experience more enjoyable.

8)      A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; The first Sherlock Holmes novel both sequentially in the timeline, and that Conan Doyle wrote.  If you never read another of the stories (and I highly recommend that you do), you must at least read this one.  Otherwise, you are banned from ever saying “elementary!”, smoking a pipe, or even thinking about deer-stalker caps (which incidentally appeared nowhere in any of the books but rather were introduced to the Holmes mythos by artist Sidney Page in his illustration which accompanied  “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”  in 1891, a good four years after Holmes’ introduction as a literary character).

Page's sketch of Holmes and Watson

9)      The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; If you like quirky British humor (and really, who doesn’t?), MUST MUST MUST read this!  I will forgive you if you don’t get through the entire series (I’ll admit that I have not), but at least give this first one a good read.  It’s funny, it’s engaging, and it’s a classic!  Okay, maybe you’ll never discuss it in an English lit class, but you’ll definitely be discussing it with your nerd friends.  ALL THE TIME.

10)   On the Road by Jack Kerouac; Yet another travel narrative, but this time American and beatified!  Kerouac is perhaps the most poetic novelist I’ve ever read (and that I can stomach to read… I’m not a huge fan of poetic novelists).  It’s a slim book, but I wouldn’t call it a quick read simply because his style demands a bit more attention than your average bear.  Still, well worth the extra effort.

Now find yourself a sunbeam, pour some lemonade, and get busy!  If you finish all these before the summer is out, I’ll be more than happy to provide more suggestions!