Friday, March 30, 2018

Book Note: Much Ado About Something

Ray, Michelle. Much Ado About Something/u>. N.p.: N.p., 2016.

Michelle Ray wrote Falling for Hamlet (for which, q.v.). and Mac/Beth (for which, q.v.). In the self-published Much Ado About Something, she moves from modern takes on tragedy to modern takes on comedy.

Alas, none of the three is particularly successful.

By the time I got twenty pages in to Much Ado About Something, I started asking myself, "How can such an exciting, interesting play be made so plodding and dull?"

But the novel didn't start that way; it started with some promise.

Well, actually, it started with this pair of quotes:



But that's all right—the play does depict love in military terms (though it would be nice if the quote were attributed to the person who actually said it (Benedick) instead of to the person who created the character (Shakespeare). It seems fair to evoke Pat Benatar at the beginning of a retelling of a play about love and a battlefield and love as a battlefield.

The next page gives us the setting (a private high school in Beverly Hills) and plunks us down in medias res some point after the death of Hero:




Imagine a fade out and a title card reading "Three months earlier" as you turn to the next page. There we are introduced to Beatriz: 



The rest of the novel alternates between Beatriz' first-person narrative, Ben's first-person narrative, and samples of interviews by the governing body of the school. I enjoyed one of them because it points directory toward the fraught question of Don John's motivations in Shakespeare's play:



But that's a rare moment of levity in a novel that plods, doggedly and without inspiration, through the plot of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Additionally, I'm pretty sure it's supposed to say, "just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean someone's not out to get you."

And some elements of that nodding to the plot don't work at all in a modern setting—or, rather, they don't work in this modern setting in the way they're used in this modern setting. Speaking of being dogged, let's look at one of Dogberry's famous speeches: 



Other elements of the novel make annoying little sense—or no sense at all. But I am refraining from proving spoilers. The novel is a fairly-straightforward but also fairly-uninspired recontextualization of Shakespeare's play.

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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.
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