Friday, August 28, 2015

Reading Books and Plays Aloud: Should You Read Books Aloud?

When I was in high school, I was one of the most obsessed Eragon fangirls you can possibly think of. Why I fixated on this series in particular is a whole nother blog post, but the upshot of my obsession was that I wanted my brother to read it.

Me: READ THIS BOOK YOU WILL LIKE IT IT HAS DRAGONS
Brother: Ugh go away
Me: READ IT YOU ANNOYING SIBLING-PERSON
Brother: But I don't like to read thingssssss
ME: FUCKING READ IT
Brother: Oh fuck off already
Me: fine then I'll read it to you
Brother: GO. AWAY.
ME: I'M GOING TO READ THIS FUCKING BOOK TO YOU AND YOU WILL FUCKING LIKE IT OR YOU WILL ANSWER TO ME DO YOU HEAR ME I WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE HELL
Brother: FINE THEN

So I read him the book.

And he fucking liked it, as I'd told him he would. Sisters are always right about these things. 

Then I read him the sequel, and he hated it just about as much as I did. 

I'm amazed that I had the vocal stamina to read him this long-ass book, and amazed that he let me without punching me in the throat halfway through mangling the ancient-magic-language. But I think he'd never have read it on his own, and that neither of us would have enjoyed it as much without me doing voice-acting-reading and creative interpretations of "lines" and characters. 

Which is odd, because novels are not a medium meant to be performed or read aloud. 

Recently, I posted my review of William Shakespeare's Star Wars, which, while it can't be performed because of copyright, is a play. Meant to be performed.

Reading plays is tricky, because plays aren't meant to be read. They are meant to be heard, and seen, and played. So much is lost in translation if you simply read a play silently to yourself. Thus I, my professors, and every other drama nut I've ever known will advise you to read a play aloud -- preferably with other people, to get more voices in the mix, but also just on your own.

Is it worth doing the same thing with books?

A lot of writing advice says to read your work aloud when revising. But sometimes, I'll read the dialogue in books aloud just as a reader. I've found surprising benefit from doing this. It alerts me to clunky dialogue, cliches that I didn't notice, and vocal tics (or writing tics) such as overused words.

And in the cases where the writing is good, reading aloud doesn't alert me to flaws. It imbues flawless words with life.

Have you ever read a book aloud, to yourself or anyone else? How about audiobooks? Opinions, anyone?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: My Nerd Dream Come True (Review)

The trilogy of verse plays, William Shakespeare's Star Wars, is one of my favorite things in this world. 

The author, Ian Doescher, wrote them as part homage, part parody -- exploring the question of what would it be like if the famous Star Wars original trilogy was written in the style of William Shakespeare.

Not only is the full trilogy in iambic pentameter -- the verse in which Shakespeare's plays are written -- but it also incorporates, reappropriates, and adapts a mishmash of lines from Shakespeare's plays. The majority of the verse is Shakespeare's words, reassigned and sometimes tweaked slightly for plurals and pronouns. Doescher supplements the Shakespeare with additions of his own, but keeps the plot firmly Star Wars. 

The style feels strangely Shakespearean in more than just the language. Fans of Shakespeare will be reminded of the Henriad when the plot grows more chaotic -- with characters rushing on during brief transitional and battle scenes to deliver their lines and move on. You can imagine the plot taking place on the stage, or you can imagine the plays' language transposed over the original Star Wars movies. It works brilliantly either way.

Doescher also adds monologues and scenes of his own. Darth Vader has a surprisingly moving monologue contemplating his own evil after he force-chokes someone to death, for instance. That soliloquy incorporates lines from Richard III -- an apt parallel. Also like Shakespeare, Doescher gives characters of minor importance important scenes. While their significance to the plot is small, the scenes shine with innovation and interest -- a refreshing break from the main action. The conversation between two unnamed Stormtroopers is probably my personal favorite. 


And then there are some things that are obviously there just for hilarity. R2D2 speaks in beep-boops of iambic pentameter. Which is written out, with shared lines and all. 

Anyway, a mere review can't express my happiness that this thing exists. It's like the author took my two favorite geeky fandoms and smashed them together. Unfortunately, no one is allowed to perform it because of copyright issues. Disney now owns Star Wars, so we're probably never going to see this parody hit the stage or the screen anytime soon. However, I'm told there are a number of amateur performances and readings that have already been done on YouTube or elsewhere. 

Seriously. Just read this. You won't be disappointed. Also, I really like reviewing stuff from this publisher (Quirk Books) because of the fantastic cover art. The Darth-Vader-in-a-ruff cover art. 

READ IT. IT'S AWESOME.