Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Book Note: The Invisible Hand

Hartley, James. The Invisible Hand. Winchester: Lodestone Books, 2017.

Recent readers of Bardfilm may have noticed an increasing number of "Book Note" posts.

In part, that's because my seminar for the 2018 Shakespeare Association of America Convention is "Shakespeare and the Modern Novel," and I've been preparing for it by reading the essays the others in the seminar wrote. Those essays have opened the doors of perception to a number of works of which I had been unaware.

For example, The Invisible Hand is the first in a series called "Shakespeare's Moon." Its title comes from one of the most unsettling images in Macbeth:
                         Come, seeling night,
Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;
And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
Which keeps me pale!  (III.ii.55-59)
As a side note, the verb to seel (as in seeling night) comes from the English Renaissance practice of seeling doves (or hawks or other birds). It means to sew their eyes shut. In the speech above, Macbeth is calling for night to come sew shut the eyes of day—and if that's not unsettling, I don't know what is.

But back to the book.

The Invisible Hand is a Macbeth-related book. In it, Sam, our main character, who is a student at a boarding school in England) goes back in time to the age of Macbeth (that's Macbeth of Scotland, not the time of Shakespeare writing Macbeth) whenever he falls asleep during a full moon. And a girl from that era comes forward at the same time—except, because of the time change (?), she shows up when he's awake and he shows up when she's awake.

If that's a bit confusing, that's the nature of the beast. I understand that we are learning through Sam's eyes what's happening, and it's puzzling to him as he undergoes it; however, it takes quite a while to get it all sorted out.

And then there's a story about a witch who tried to sell books to the director of the abbey that was once on the current school's grounds. Whatever you write in the one surviving book comes to pass. So our hero has to find it, and there are tunnels under graveyards and mysterious happenings that are vaguely flavored of Hogwarts Castle.

And our hero is also studying Macbeth in school, so he thinks if he just reads enough of the play, he can give advice to Leana, our heroine. Here's one such passage:



All in all, it took a lot of effort to try to follow the narrative. But a second book in the series will be released at the end of August. It will be based on Romeo and Juliet (or will at least be related to Romeo and Juliet). Perhaps it will clarify some of the confusion The Invisible Hand left behind.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2020 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest