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Nothing Like The Sun (2013)

Nothing Like the Sun (2013)

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3.86 of 5 Votes: 2
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0393346404 (ISBN13: 9780393346404)
w. w. norton & company

About book Nothing Like The Sun (2013)

Summary:Anthony Burgess’s Nothing Like the Sun is a highly fascinating, albeit fictional, re-telling of Shakespeare’s love life. In 234 pages, Burgess manages to introduce his reader to a young Shakespeare, developing into manhood and clumsily fumbling his way through his first sexual escapade with a woman, through Shakespeare’s long, famed (and contested) romance with Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and, ultimately, to Shakespeare’s final days, the establishment of The Globe theater, and Shakespeare’s romance with “The Dark Lady.” The Good:Burgess has a command for language. This is my third experience with a work by Anthony Burgess and, once again, I am impressed and awed by his skill as a story-teller and an imagist. While, in typical fashion, he does tend to break-off at points of leisurely prose into something more Gertrude Steine-esque (stream of consciousness, for example), for the most part he keeps this novel in finely tuned form. There is also an exceptional arc to this story, which carries the reader from Shakespeare’s boyhood, to his death, with common characters interacting regularly and to an end result. Even the minor characters, such as Wriothesley’s secretary, are well-established and easily identified, once they have been described. I also very much appreciated the references to other historical figures of the time, and how they impacted Shakespeare’s life and works. Marlowe, Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I, The University Wits (Greene, Lyly, Nashe) all make an appearance, or are at least referred to, throughout the novel – their works (as well as works of the Classicists – Ovid, Virgil; and the early dramatists – Seneca, etc) are clearly defined in relation to their impact on Shakespeare’s own designs and interpretations. I found this highly informative and a nice refresher to/reinforcement of my studies of Shakespeare at the Undergraduate and Graduate levels – I enjoyed being reminded of how the playwrights competed and worked together, how Shakespeare was inspired, and by whom, and how politics and the time period played an important role in the successes and failures of the players (Greene, for instance, died sickly and shamed; Marlowe hunted down as an atheist; Jonson’s imprisonment for treasonous writing, and Nashe’s escape from England for the same). Incredibly fascinating and surprisingly sound story, which also appropriately references, with subtlety, many of Shakespeare’s works, at their time of development, so that a reader familiar with the works may catch them without their names actually having been written. Lovely little way for Burgess to reward his learned readers (as Shakespeare oft amused himself by doing). The Bad:Burgess takes much creative, though well-researched, license with Shakespeare’s life and the details of his relationship with various people. For instance, while many scholars believe “The Rival Poet” of “The Fair Youth” sonnets to be either Chapman or Marlowe due to circumstances of fame, stature, and wealth (ego, essentially), Burgess breaks from the traditional interpretation of “The Rival Poet” to explore the possibility that Chapman was, in fact, a rival for Henry Wriothesley’s attention and affection and, for this reason, Shakespeare became jealous and critical of Chapman. Similarly, the ultimately un-established relationship between Shakespeare and Wriothesley, Shakespeare and “The Dark Lady” (or Lucy, in this novel), as well as, even Shakespeare and his wife – are all quite largely fictional. That being said, while the novel’s general details – including historical happenings, political and religious tensions, and rivalries between the poets and the players are all well envisioned – the novel is dangerous in that the story of Shakespeare’s life comes across so logical here that it almost appears factual (and, who knows, a large portion of Burgess’s interpretations may have been true). Thus, the writing is fantastic, but the liberties taken are troublesome. Final Verdict (4.0 out of 5.0)The story was well written and enjoyable. It was also, I thought, a fascinating glimpse at history and this particularly time period. Burgess reminds the reader of many of the fears and prejudices of the time, and seems to be more critical of Elizabeth I than Shakespeare himself (most scholars believe) was. I appreciated Burgess’s cleverness and subtlety, but also his openness and candor in terms of sexuality and taboo relationships. Burgess clearly wants to open the reader’s eyes to what very well could have happened, yet is never acknowledged. Still, some of the author’s creative license, I think, goes beyond an artistic historian’s realm. When I compare Nothing Like the Sun to, say, Stone’s Lust for Life I find the latter to be much more honest to the facts as we know them, whereas the former is a bit more adventurous in scope. Overall, though, it was a highly educational, enjoyable read of an interesting and valid perspective look on Shakespeare.

I was already impressed with Burgess' language skills in Clockwork, although I now hear he pans that book as a 15 minute bezoomy lark, but there are lines in this book that a good Shakespeare scholar might think that Will wrote himself . I really wanted to give it 4 1/2, because it drags a little in the 4th quarto, but 5 is more accurate than 4 . I would quote to prove myself, but I'm lazy and it's late.Addendum--I especially like the scene early in the book, with Will as a teenager ( I think..he's still living in his dad's house with a batch of brothers and sisters). He's writing poetry whilst his (greasy) sister Joan "keels the pot", his little idiot brother is running inside to escape some mischief he caused outside, (shades of Bottom and many other Shakespeare goofballs). His parents are chiding him for wasting time on verse, a point of stillness in a whirlwind of chaos. I also like the tavern scenes. I think it would be hard to appreciate this book if you are not a hardcore Shakespeare fan and familiar with many of his plays and sonnets (which I am). I know I wouldn't have got many of the connections, even after my college courses on Shakespeare, because it takes a more slow and savoring Bard reading to feel the whole vibe here. I loved it . Here's a quote that doesn't so much try to use the Elizabethan dialect (other parts do)--yet has Shakespearean imagery: "the city grew a head, glowing over limbs of towers and houses in the rat-scurrying night, and its face was drawn, its eyes sunken, it vomited foul living matter down to ooze over the cobbles, in its delirium it cried Jesus Jesus."

Do You like book Nothing Like The Sun (2013)?

How many novelists can you think of with the required talent and ambition to take on the task of writing a novel about Shakespeare's love life, daring to imagine themselves inside the Immortal Bards head at the moment of creation and the in his bed at the moment of climax?Burgess' Bard is as lusty and ambitious as all young men, yet full of pity and sympathy also, unable to hold his drink, fired by a golden vision of a Dark Lady indirectly inspired by the ravings of a local Stratfordian loon.Outmaneuvered into marrying Anne Hathaway after loving a different Anne entirely, Will heads to London to make his name, finding patronage and companionship with the reckless but kind Henry Wriothesley, then discovering his Dark Lady in a black exile from the East Indies named Fatimah, who gives him the 'gift' of more than just her love.Burgess completely revels in the language of Elizabethan language, the compounds, the wordplay, the endless puns - there must be a dozen on the Bard's first name alone.Then there are the words themselves, 'croshabells', 'galligaskins', 'peripatottering' etc.This passage, with young Will drowning his sorrows in a salubrious pub, should help you decide if you want to read the novel or not:'Drink, then. Down it among the titbrained molligolliards of country copulatives, of a beastly sort, a;;, their browned pickers a-clutch of their spilliwilly potkins, filthy from handling of spade and harrow, cheesy from udder new-milked, slash mouths agape at some merry tale from that rogue with rat-skins about his middle, coneyskincap on's sconce.' Loved the subject matter, loved loved loved the daring approach to it.
—Perry Whitford

The idea is simple and brilliant at once, but by no means easy to execute. Burgess gets the tone right: there are some fantastic scenes and descriptions here. The downside for casual readers is that while you don't need any knowledge of Shakespeare's life to read this book, there are so many allusions and in-jokes that I'm sure it would scare off many lay readers. Those who know just a little, though, will marvel at the blend of erudition and playfulness. The 'dark lady' by the way is held to be Malayan (or possibly Indonesian), a region well-known to Burgess.

I thought the language was superb, Elizabeth. I imagine someone who's familiar with Shakespeare would either be delighted or affronted! I'd love to hear what you think.

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