William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls

              Take two cultural icons—William Shakespeare, the English poet, playwright and actor who is considered one of the best writers in the English language and the movie Mean Girls which was released 15 years ago and stars Tina Fey, one of my favorite comedians and you have tales of passion, toxic envy, back-stabbing (both literal and figurative) and intense power struggles (for kingdoms or, in the case of Mean Girls, to belong to the most popular high school clique.

            Now, Ian Doescher, a best selling author has combined the two in the recently introduced Pop Shakespeare series from Quirk Books, starting with two books, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls and William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future. Both cost $12.99 each.

            Doescher, who earned a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Ethics from Union Theological Seminary, has taken the Bard’s comedic play Much Ado About Nothing (nothing signifying a great deal of fuss over something of little importance) and Mean Girls which tells the story of Cady Heron, a home-schooled child of anthropologists raised in Africa who enrolls in an American high school.

            Written in iambic pentameter, the style of poetry favored by Shakespeare, the books are in a play format. If you’re like me and forgot exactly what iambic pentameter is, Doescher explains that it’s a line of poetry with a very specific syllabic patter.

            “The iamb has two syllables and pentameter mean they are five iambs in a line,” he says. “That means that iambic pentameter is a line of ten syllables.”

            Think da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, he says. Or to make it easier, sing the line from Simon and Garfunkel’s song that goes “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.”

            At first reading the books can be daunting but it only takes a short time to get in the rhyme of the poetry and recognize scenarios and phrases from both Shakespeare and Mean Girls and enjoy the humor.

            A natural to write these books which also includes William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Doescher describes himself as having been the high school nerd who memorized Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquys and then felt compelled to repeat them for friends, family and even to perform them while standing on his desk in English class. We have to agree with him about the nerd thing, particularly after he says that he’s been practicing speaking in iambic pentameter since high school.

Ifyougo

What: Ian Doescher talk and book signing.

When: Friday, April 26 from 6 to 7 pm

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL

Cost: Free and open to the public.

FYI: To join the signing line, please purchase one of the author’s latest books, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls and William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville (630) 355-2665 or order online at andersonsbookshop.com

Hope Never Dies: A Obama-Biden Mystery

Watching news clips of Barack Obama windsurfing off of Richard Branson’s private island, kayaking with Justin Trudeau and BASE jumping in Hong Kong with Bradley Cooper while he’s grouting tile in his master bathroom and playing darts on a board his daughter gave him years ago, Joe Biden, feeling left-out (he doesn’t even have Secret Service protection anymore), grumpily wonders why the 44th president hasn’t called him in the months since Donald Trump took office.  Biden’s grousing changes quickly when Obama appears in the woods behind his house late one night, coolly smoking a cigarette and delivering the terrible news that Finn Donnelly, the Amtrak conductor that Biden befriended as he traveled back and forth between Delaware to Washington D.C. has been murdered. On his body, Barack says, was a printout map of Biden’s home. Is someone targeting the vice-president?Shaffer, Andrew_Courtesy Andrew Shaffer

And so the bromance rekindles as the ex-president and ex-vice are back working as a team as they race to solve the crime in Andrew Shaffer’s Hope Never Dies (Quirk Books 2018; $14.99). The title is a parody of the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies”  and the dime store detective novel-like-cover  depicts Obama, the wind whipping his red tie behind him, standing in the passenger seat of a Thunderbird convertible pointing the way as a determined Biden drives but the story itself isn’t farce. Shaffer, who is a New York Times best seller author, says that though the action is over-the-top at times—Obama roughing up a biker; Biden head-butting a villain and getting thrown off a fast moving train to name a few—he resisted getting too campy.

“The book is more than a one-note joke,” says Shaffer.

Growing up in Iowa, Shaffer enrolled in the University of Iowa’s noted creative writing program.

“They teach serious fiction there and you’re reading a lot of serious authors like Phillip Roth,” he says.  “So I’m writing like I’m in my 60s, divorced and living in the suburbs. I was only 21 and I thought what am I doing? I wanted to write the type of fiction I like to read such as authors like Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block.”

Shaffer had been thinking about writing a mystery with Joe Biden as the main character for years.

“I thought about maybe making it a cozy type of mystery,” he says. “But I got the idea for this when they’d been out of office for a week or so. I wrote a note to my agent asking how about a Biden-Obama mystery and she said really? I said yes.”

Inspired by the 1980s buddy cop movies he liked such as “Tango & Cash,” Shaffer says that the mystery isn’t just about Biden’s love of ice cream but instead covers serious topics such as the opioid epidemic. Since the book’s recent release on July 18, it’s been selected as an Amazon Best Book of the Month: Thrillers July 2018 and an Official Summer Read of Publishers Weekly.  He is already working on the next book in the series, Hope Rides Again.

“It’s a legacy in ways,” Shaffer says about the series. “”It’s for people, no matter what part of the political spectrum they’re on, need some kind of hope.”

Ifyougo:

What: Book signing with Andrew Shaffer.

When: Sunday, August 19 at 2:00 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL.

FYI: (630) 355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

 

 

 

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