I was looking forward to this book for two reasons: first, because it was part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project where distinguished contemporary authors were asked to revisit Shakespeare’s works, and second, because I had never read Margaret Atwood before. I know. How can I call myself a reader if I’ve never read the goddess of fiction?
All I can say is, “Wow!” This was masterful from start to finish. While I thought I knew where the plot was headed, I was skeptical about whether or not Atwood was going to surprise me. I’m not sure how, but surprise, she did. The structure of the book modeled the play, The Tempest, perfectly! There was so much content in here, it would be a great book for a discussion. While I was reading I kept thinking, who do I know who might have read this, or might want to read it who would be willing to talk to me about it? I usually don’t like to know much about a book before I read it, so while I was curious about the title, I figured Atwood would clue me in in her own time. When she did, I was glad that I hadn’t researched it in advance. There was one detail in the story that I thought was genius that had to do with profanity. That’s all I’m going to say. If you’re not already an Atwood fan, this possibly might make you one!
The plot in more than 140 characters: Felix, the protagonist, has fallen from glory as an innovative director in a local theater. After laying low for a time, he gets a job teaching English at a correctional facility. One of his terms of employment is that his students will perform a Shakespeare play after studying it in the class. The play is, of course, laden with personal meaning to Felix, The Tempest.
In a book where Shakespeare features heavily, the beauty simply has to be the language. The Bard was such an inventive flinger of invective, I’ve included my favorites here, along with a couple of memorable phrases. Happy Birthday, Will.
Hang cur, hang, you whoreson insolent noisemaker.
Hell is empty and all the devils are here.
Toads, beetles and bats light on you.
Most wicked sir, whom to call brother would even infect my mouth.
Watch out he’s winding the watch of his wit, by and by it will strike.
Good wombs have borne bad sons.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
What’s past is prologue.
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t.
Now I will believe that there are unicorns.
Felix wasn’t a big eater, so food played a minimal role in the book. Felix regularly had a boiled egg and soda crackers for breakfast, but that was too boring. While he had lunch at a restaurant a few times with Estelle, they drank martinis and once ordered “deep fried calamari,” but I’m not a fan of calamari, nor was it significant to the book. So that left me with potato chips, which were significant. What follows is a healthier take on one of my favorite snacks. Can’t say no to a chip, and though time-intensive with the microwaving, they were worth it. If you’re sharing them, DO NOT SAMPLE as you cook them. You literally cannot eat just one.
Microwave Potato Chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Yukon gold potato, sliced paper thin 1/16 ” (peel optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Use a mandoline to cut uniform slices of potato, or carefully slice with a sharp knife. Place them in a cold water bath and agitate the water to release starch. Rinse and repeat until the water is clear. Lay the slices on a kitchen towel and blot to dry. The drier the better.
Mix the salt in the vegetable oil and pour into a plastic bag. Add the potato slices, and shake to coat. Arrange potato slices in a single layer on a microwave safe dish.
Cook in the microwave for 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned (if not browned, they will not become crisp). Times will vary depending on the power of your microwave. Remove chips from plate, and toss with more salt to taste, or other seasonings. Let cool. Repeat process with the remaining potato slices.