Monday, July 8, 2013

William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

I hate Ian Doescher. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher, like Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker’s memoir told through baseball cards, and The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan’s story of a relationship told through dictionary entries, is a book whose structure frustrates me. Frustrates me because the latent writer in me hears about it and believes that, had I come up with the idea, I could have written this book. (And by “could have” I of course mean “should have.”) But I didn’t. He did. And for that I hate him. But don’t let my hate stop you from reading Doescher’s excellent five-act iambic pentameter retelling of the original Star Wars. If droid-inspired Daft Punk can top the charts, and science fiction icon Joss Whedon can release a Shakespeare comedy, then surely the time is right for a Shakespearean version of Star Wars.

Star Wars (err, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was the first film I remember seeing in a theater, and I engaged my brother in many a light saber duel. As for the Shakespeare connection, I am a high school English teacher. Need I say more? Can you visualize the overlap in this Venn diagram? So the stars were aligned for my appreciation of this beautifully designed book (seriously, the cover, the illustrations, the font—and be sure to take the slip cover off—talk about attention to detail). You have waited too long for the nerd glory that is this book. You have waited too long to hear Hans say “I prithee, Chewie, keep the ships at bay” (137). And you didn’t know how badly you needed to hear Jabba and Greedo speak in iambic pentameter.

But Doescher’s book is not all whimsy and japery. In his afterword, he writes a passionate defense of the literary merit of Star Wars, with references to Joseph Campbell, the hero’s journey, and archetypes. Such a defense is superfluous for nerds, who already know such things. But it is useful for non-nerdy English teachers, of whom there are too many (shocking claim, I know). Indeed, this book should be added to the repertoire of every Shakespeare teacher. Doescher has gone to great pains to replicate the structure of a Shakespeare play, and allusions to actual Shakespeare plays abound (“What light through yonder flashing sensor breaks?”). Although for many of my students Star Wars is from a galaxy as far away as Shakespeare’s England, those of us trying to demonstrate the lingering contrails of Shakespeare’s works can use William Shakespeare’s Star Wars as the jocular proof.


Ian Doescher said...

The best thing I've ever read with the sentence "I hate Ian Doescher" in it. Thanks. :-)

Seth Christenfeld said...

And now I feel terrible that I haven't even had the chance to start reading it, much less write my own review. ;)

Sarah Stevenson said...

Seriously, I can't wait to read this one.