literature

Introducing: Yamini, Administrative and Production Intern

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Hello everyone! My name is Yamini Coen and I’m one of the new Administration and Production Interns at Shakespeare In Action. I’m a huge literature lover, especially contemporary literature, ironically mainly as a result of many grueling years of school. Contemporary literature wouldn’t be nearly as crazy and experimental if it didn’t have Shakespeare to model after. Shakespeare has always been one of my primary sources of entertainment, either through laughter at extremely ridiculous situations, like in Twelfth Night, or through my mind being blown at the end of basically all his tragedies.

I’m also a pop culture aficionado, which Shakespeare configures in a lot more than you would think. While my favourite Shakespeare play is Othello, the best Shakespeare teen film adaptation, in my opinion, is not O but 10 Things I Hate About You, where Julia Stiles embraces Shakespearean comedy much better than tragedy. She’s The Man is pretty enjoyable too.

I’m so excited to join the Shakespeare in Action team and to have an opportunity to contribute to the learning of Shakespeare in Toronto and Ontario schools. His work still resonates to this day, and, from my own experience, it is through education that his plays can be understood in their splendor. Thanks for having me, Shakespeare in Action!

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Doug Miller Books, an interview with the bookmonger himself

Doug Miller Books, an interview with the bookmonger himself

Doug Miller Books, an interview with the bookmonger himself

Doug Miller

Doug Miller

 

When I enter the store, Doug is standing on a stool, sharing a giant picture book with some eager customers.  Doug Miller Books is the hidden gem of Korea Town – housing some 27,000 adult fiction books; 10,000 kids’ books; 3000 comics and graphic novels; Bumpkin, the resident rabbit (who had no further comment); and the Lego creations that Doug and his son build together.

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LEGO creations!


SIA
:        What is the Doug Miller Books story?  You’ve been doing this for 29 years.  How did this store come to be?

Doug:     I opened up the bookshop because I was over-run by books in my apartment.  I needed another outlet so that people could see the books in a well-lit situation, and have everything alphabetized and displayed properly on shelves.  That’s it. It was very, very simple.

SIA:        It was a practical solution.

Doug:     Yes, plus, owning a shop allows you to see a lot of different things.  It allows you to see a wider range of books coming in and going out. It’s sad to see some things go, but happy moments when things come in.

SIA:        They’re like friends, arriving and departing.

 

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Fiction

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Comics


SIA
:         When I walk into this bookstore I feel like it’s so well curated.  Can you tell me a little more about your collection and the areas on which you focus?

Doug:     Well, the main thing to keep in mind is that my shop is very small, so you really hand-pick everything. If you have a large space, you can just fill it and alphabetize it, but when you have a smaller shop, you really have to be mindful because you don’t have a lot of display space.  So, with that in mind, I focus on fiction, which is split into many different genres –literature, general fiction, mysteries and thrillers, children’s books, sci-fi and fantasy.  There is a little non-fiction, lots of graphic novels and, with the children’s books, there are also the picture books.

 

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Dr. Seuss!

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Nancy Drew!

 

SIA:        I love, LOVE, the children’s collection here.  What were some of your favourite children’s books growing up, even now?

Doug:     A lot of the picture books that Scholastic was putting out because, of course, we had the Scholastic Book Club for Kids, which of course still exists today.  Things like Clifford and books on dinosaurs and on monsters, but to be more specific, Where the Wild Things Are, My Father’s Dragon, Harry the Dirty Dog, many of the Dr. Seuss tales, many of the Dr. Seuss Library Series that Random House published. They weren’t written by him or illustrated by him, but they were friends of his.  [The books] were brought into the fold and eventually published and printed for the masses and did extremely well. They were things like Are You My Mother, by P.D. Eastman.

SIA:        That was my first book!

Doug:     There’s another one about the goldfish that’s too big to be put into a goldfish bowl anymore.  He has to [move] it from the goldfish bowl to the sink, from the sink to the bathtub, from the bathtub to the swimming pool and it’s still too big.  It’s a lovely story.

SIA:        What is the greatest gem that’s come into your store that made you think: “Wow, this is wonderful.  I’m so happy to have this on my shelf.”

Doug:     As a person who sells books, the best books are the ones that you know people have been hunting for, so it’s not necessarily books that I cherish personally.  It could be the person who walks in and wants a book from their childhood.  They come in and they say: “Oh, I remember this story about a pig and there was there was a spider.”  And you look at them and you go: “Well that’s Charlotte’s Web.” And then you give them a paperback and they’re very excited.  It’s not necessarily about a first edition or a fine edition.  It’s the fact that you’ve provided them with something that they’ve lost track of in their mind.  It’s always been there, niggling in the back of their mind but it hasn’t been at the forefront for ages.  Then all of a sudden something happens and they think about it.  They remember a little bit and the next thing you know. they come in asking questions and hopefully they get the right answer.

SIA:        It’s like retrieving a long-lost memory.

Doug:    Yeah.  Rare books – what really should be called fine books – aren’t as plentiful as they used to be, understandably, because there are so many more people selling books on-line and, let’s face it, with children’s books it’s very difficult because [of the] huge emotional attachment to them.  For the most part, they’re the things that people keep.  People phone up all the time and say: “I have books to sell” and I say: “Do you have any children’s books?”  I have many other books other than children’s books, but I just really want to buy a lot of kids’ books.  For the most part, they say: “Well, we’re keeping those.”  They’re cherished books.  They have a huge history.  It’s not that you’re buying a children’s book from someone, you’re buying the book that their mom or dad, grandmother or grandfather, aunt, uncle or some relative [read to them], or some moment in time when they sat in some specific place and [at a] specific time and read that book themselves.  You’re not buying that book; you’re buying that moment and that, you can’t put a price on.

SIA:        No, I still have almost all of mine. I have my Golden Books and my Dr. Seuss books.  They would arrive by the boxful and it was such a special moment unpacking those with my parents.  The Keep Toronto Reading Festival [happened] in April.  The “one book” this year [was] The Cellist of Sarajevo. If we had a kids’ equivalent for, let’s say, children between the ages of 9 and 12, what book would you recommend?  Or, in a more general way, what are some of those mid-grade novels that are exceptional?

Doug:     The Giver would be a great book.  It’s the first part of a quartet; it’s absolutely brilliant.  You know what would be good for age 9?  The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl, which is a book that he wrote about the negative effects of hunting, particularly for sport, as opposed to eating.  A good age-10 book would be The Penderwicks.  For 11, I would look at something by Michael Morpurgo, something like War Horse.  And for 12, Holes.

SIA:        That’s a fantastic book – I LOVE that book!  [A customer enters, who happens to have fraternal twin teens. Doug knows the perfect book – “Blood Red Road,” a story about Saba’s quest to find her twin brother, Lugh.] 

SIA:        So, 29 years – where do you see the next 29 going?  What place do you hope to have in the community?

Doug:     It would be great, of course, to have a larger store.  This store is too small for my stock. I’m hoping, in the future, to get a larger space but real estate being the way it is in Toronto…It’s never been easy. [Laughs]

SIA:        No.  [Laughs]

Doug:     In the next 29 years, I could see myself still doing this easily.  Although I’d like to retire by that time, I think.  But most of us don’t retire; most of us just keep doing it till the end.  I’ve been doing this for so long, and I’ve never once thought to myself, in a negative way, that I have to go to work.  It’s always positive.  I’m always excited to go to work, excited about the business, the books and, more importantly, I’m excited about the customers.  It’s heart-breaking too because people ask for you for things and you don’t have it.  It’s sad that you don’t have the things that they’re looking for, ‘cause you’d like to provide them with the things that they always want.  Aside from that, it’s a very joyful experience working in the book trade.

SIA:        You’re living your passion.

Doug:     Yup.  And I’ve been doing it for so many years, I can’t imagine doing anything else

Shakespeare at the Movies- The Muppets

Since the 1950’s, Jim Henson and Co. have been delighting children and adults alike with their band of Muppets!
The Muppets have appeared in many movies and have had several television shows since their debut, constantly making reference to Shakespeare and other important literary figures along the way.
Since Kermit and the rest of The Muppets are back on the big screen this week, let’s take a look at some of the nods to Shakespeare over the years!

Monsterpiece Theatre appeared on Sesame Street, and featured Cookie Monster introducing skits based on some of the great literary classics! Shakespeare’s work appeared in this segment several times.

A segment on The Muppet Show called Veterinarian’s Hospital tried to find out how many Shakespeare references can fit into a minute and a half.

Patrick Stewart appeared on Sesame Street and pondered the age old question- “B… Or not a B?”

The Muppet Show had many panel discussions during its run. One of the more important topics discussed; Was William Shakespeare, in fact, bacon?

Garth Brooks made some Shakespearean modifications to the duet he planned on doing with Miss Piggy during a taping of Muppets Tonight.

I know we haven’t even begun to list all of the Shakespeare references in the Muppets’ work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some more on your own! Which Shakespeare reference is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!

SIA Poll- Which Shakespeare character would you want to be your Valentine?

Shakespeare is known for creating some of the most famous (yet sometimes, tragic) lovers in literature. Would you want any of them to be your Valentine? Take the poll!

Give your real Valentine a unique gift this Valentine’s Day- Shakespeare Sonnets by Kids! They are selling fast, so be sure to get yours now!

SIA is also celebrating Valentine’s Day with our friends at DFilms with a Romeo and Juliet DVD and Blu-Ray Giveaway!

What If Modern Authors Redid Shakespeare?

In June of 2013, Random House imprint Hogarth Press announced that they are commissioning a slate of authors to novelize the complete works of Shakespeare for a modern audience. The launch of these books in 2016 will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

The roster of illustrious authors who have signed on to modernize Shakespeare’s plays includes Margaret Atwood (The Tempest), Jeannette Winterson (The Winter’s Tale), Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew), Howard Jacobson (The Merchant of Venice), and Jo Nesbo (Macbeth).

With the 400th anniversary only two years away, and 32 plays left unclaimed, Hogarth is running out of time to get these books written, so we thought we’d help them out with suggestions of author and play pairings we’d like to see. We had trouble limiting our imaginations to living authors only though!

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J.R.R. Tolkein + Hamlet: Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest work, is a four hour play about a prince who decides in Act 1 to avenge his father’s death, and after five acts and 3834 lines of flip-flopping, he eventually gets around to it. Who better to take on the dithering Dane than the man who wrote the three-part story of a skittish hobbit who takes 1300 pages to accomplish one task?

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Stephenie Meyer + Romeo and Juliet: Despite its reputation as the greatest love story ever told, let’s face it, once Mercutio dies, Romeo and Juliet is a total snooze-fest. In order to appeal to today’s main audience for epic love stories (i.e. tweens), R&J could use an injection of vampire vs. werewolf warfare to pump up the drama. “O Romeo, Romeo, a werewolf art thou, Romeo?”

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George R.R. Martin + Titus Andronicus: Shakespeare, who was never one to shy away from bloodshed and violence, has a literary soul mate in the bloodthirsty author of the Game of Thrones series. I get chills just imagining what gruesome twists Martin would add to a story already brimming with beheadings, tongue removals, and characters getting baked into pies.

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Dr. Seuss + Timon of Athens: Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens is essentially the plot of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas told in reverse. In this lesser known play, Timon, a wealthy Athenian, blithely bestows his riches on his flaky artist friends, and anyone else who asks. But when his money runs out and his friends abandon him, he renounces human society and runs off to the forest to live in a cave. He spends the rest of his days hating everyone and spouting abuse at anyone who dares to visit.

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Jasper Fforde + The Tempest: I know Hogarth already has an author for The Tempest, but we couldn’t resist fantasizing about what kinds of transgressions Fforde’s literary detective Thursday Next would call out the characters on Prospero’s island for.

Your Very Own Shakespeare Plushie!

Look what I found in Vancouver! This plush doll of William Shakespeare can be found at Science World, next to Albert Einstein. As part of The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild’s Little Thinkers series, here’s what they have to say about the Bard:

“Sure, Shakespeare could write some heavy stuff. But when he chose to lighten up, no one was more playful than The Bard. So we think he would have loved our Shakespeare Little Thinker Doll. He stands about 11 inches tall and is handsomely decked out in Elizabethan garb, from his boots right up to his ruffled collar. The Shakespeare Little Thinker makes a perfect gift for any student, actor, or writer. Or get one for yourself — He’s cute, cuddly, and scholarly — exactly As You Like It!”

shakespeare-plushie

Fascinating Usage of Shakespeare: Shakespeare Insult Chewing Gum

People are always looking for interesting ways to introduce Shakespeare into everyday life. I was looking on the Book Hunter’s Holiday blog, and the blogger covered a creative candy maker’s means of bringing Shakespeare into everyday life in a way that’s a whole lot of fun: Shakespeare insult chewing gum. Until now, I never thought it was possible to find something that’s both edible, chewable, and contains insults, but there’s a first for everything.

Each gumball insult set is a mini bookshelf containing “books” of insults (gumball packages) from Henry V, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Romeo & Juliet, or Richard III. The gumball sets are packaged like books with a picture of Mr. Shakespeare, and each mini bookshelf has the words: “Thy breath stinks with eating toasted cheese” in yellow letters.

Each package contains two gumballs and a Shakespearean insult printed inside. The best part: you can both chew gum and practice Shakespearean insults on friends (best online fun fact discovery ever!!). A picture of the Shakespearean insults gum is posted below:

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Photo source: Chapter 307: Shakespeare in miniature-it’s edible and disgusting “The Book Hunter’s holiday”( http://bookhuntersholiday.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/chapter-307-shakespeare-in-miniature-its-edible-and-its-insulting/)