Batman, or Shakespeare?

who said it shakespeare or batmanHere’s a fun way to spend a couple of minutes: “Who Said It: Shakespeare or Batman?

(I can’t believe I missed the two that I did … clearly I haven’t been reading enough Batman).

batman shakespeare bustDid you know you can buy the Batman Shakespeare bust? (You know, the next to the Bat-Phone). Probably just as well that I don’t have $3oo.o0 for impulse eBay purchases.


Tangentially related: Greg Hurwitz studied Shakespearean tragedy at Oxford, and gets to write Batman comics!

Shakespeare Star Wars

Shakespeare Star Wars

Yeah, the literary mash-up genre does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

But Star Wars-meets-Shakespeare sounds like a fun idea that at least needn’t be taken too seriously —  Slate has an excerpt of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher (available in print and ebook).


I do rather like the woodcut-style illustrations. Huffington Post has some additional examples to check out: “Inside William Shakespeare’s ‘Star Wars’


Edit: And, Boing Boing has an even better, 16-page preview here.


Neat: All of Hamlet, printed on one bookmark

Here’s a clever idea for a bookmark: the entire text of Hamlet in minuscule type on one bookmark (about 30,000 words or so). Sounds like the perfect Shakespeare-themed bookmark to bookmark your Shakespeare. I’m not sure how I’d use it on my Kindle, though. Link courtesy of NY Daily News (“Mini Shakespeare texts: All of ‘Hamlet’ is now on one bookmark“).

They sure know their audience: “The idea came from a joke on a shirt he had that read: ‘I’m so bookish, my bookmarks are smaller books.'”

Here’s where you can buy the bookmarks. Nice of them to put a cautionary note warning against trying to read the whole bookmark for fear of eyestrain —

“So, you’re dorky enough to bookmark your books with smaller books? Now, we make it convenient by putting all of Hamlet on a single bookmark.”


Eggs à la Nabokov and Other Interesting Literary Recipes

Food, and literature? Yes.

Here’s a fun one from Flavorwire (“How to Eat Like Your Favorite Authors”). It is quite a list, with varying levels of complexity (ranging from Vladimir Nabokov’s Eggs à la Nabocoque to Salman Rushdie’s Lamb Korma).

Personally, I like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Turkey Recipes – 


At this post holiday season, the refrigerators of the nation are overstuffed with large masses of turkey, the sight of which is calculated to give an adult an attack of dizziness. It seems, therefore, an appropriate time to give the owners the benefit of my experience as an old gourmet, in using this surplus material. Some of the recipes have been in my family for generations. (This usually occurs when rigor mortis sets in.) They were collected over years, from old cook books, yellowed diaries of the Pilgrim Fathers, mail order catalogues, golf-bags and trash cans. Not one but has been tried and proven—there are headstones all over America to testify to the fact.

Very well then. Here goes:

1. Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters. Shake.

2. Turkey à la Francais: Take a large ripe turkey, prepare as for basting and stuff with old watches and chains and monkey meat. Proceed as with cottage pudding.

3. Turkey and Water: Take one turkey and one pan of water. Heat the latter to the boiling point and then put in the refrigerator. When it has jelled, drown the turkey in it. Eat. In preparing this recipe it is best to have a few ham sandwiches around in case things go wrong.

4. Turkey Mongole: Take three butts of salami and a large turkey skeleton, from which the feathers and natural stuffing have been removed. Lay them out on the table and call up some Mongole in the neighborhood to tell you how to proceed from there.

5. Turkey Mousse: Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc. Blow up with a bicycle pump. Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall.

6. Stolen Turkey: Walk quickly from the market, and, if accosted, remark with a laugh that it had just flown into your arms and you hadn’t noticed it. Then drop the turkey with the white of one egg—well, anyhow, beat it.

7. Turkey à la Crême: Prepare the crême a day in advance. Deluge the turkey with it and cook for six days over a blast furnace. Wrap in fly paper and serve.”

Jonathan Franzen’s Pasta with Kale is the most likely recipe I’m going to try this weekend —

“This is good food for a working writer: cheap, easy to make, handsome, elegant, nutritionally well-balanced, devoid of saturated fat, private, erotic, virtuous, delicious. I eat it hot the first night and then cold as leftovers for two further dinners and maybe one lunch.

1 lb. fresh kale
1 lb. good dry pasta, ideally Del Verde brand
1 kettle of water with lots of salt
3 medium-size garlic cloves
1/2 cup (or less) extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste”

It actually sounds pretty good … but what makes it “erotic”? Freak.

Honorable Mentions:

Ernest Hemingway’s pan fried trout

Elizabeth Bishop’s Brownies

Salman Rushdie’s Lamb Korma

Allen Ginsberg’s Cold Summer Borscht

And check out at NPR Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake recipe.

In all, slightly more than 10 percent of Dickinson’s poems employ images of food and drink,” she writes.”

Literature, as Comic Books

Here’s a fun one from Flavorwire (“Classic Literature Transformed into Comic Book Art“) detailing the literature-as-comic-books series, Illustrated Classics:

“Running 169 issues long, the series’ first run ended in 1971, leaving us to adore them only through hand-me-downs and chance thrift store finds. Works such as Moby Dick, Hamlet, and Huckleberry Finn were transformed into comic book-style adventures (with illustrations galore) in order to introduce young readers to classic novels they might have otherwise ignored.” 

Just based on the Wikipedia entry, Classics Illustrated comic books has a surprisingly long and varied history. My only exposure to the comics comes from remembering Tom Berenger in Major league reading the Moby Dick comic book on the plane.

But, based on this post from AbeBooks (“Meet the Comic Book Collector: Classics Illustrated and their Literary Twins“), those literature comic books are sometimes worth a hell of a lot of money. I do think some of these vintage comic book covers are kind of cool (check out Jane Eyre on the right).

Proving that there’s always money to be made in old ideas, it looks like Marvel comics recently got into the action, with their own, updated Marvel Illustrated series. Wow, Jane Austen comic books. I wonder who reads them. No, I mean really — I’d be love to know who is the reading audience is for Emma or Sense and Sensibility in comic book form?

Cool: Crime and Punishment, in Batman Form.

Parody and literature is a favorite pet topic of mine. There’s something pleasurable about seeing familiar literature spun into amusingly unfamiliar forms.* As Nabokov said — “Satire is a lesson, parody is a game” — there’s an element of fun that’s when “high art” can be treated playfully in “low” art form. Which largely explains my geekish delight in discovering Masterpiece Comics

“Masterpiece Comics adapts a variety of classic literary works with the most iconic visual idioms of twentieth-century comics. Dense with exclamation marks and lurid colors, R. Sikoryak’s parodies remind us of the sensational excesses of the canon, or, if you prefer, of the economical expressiveness of classic comics from Batman to Garfield. In “Blond Eve,” 

Dagwood and Blondie are ejected from the Garden of Eden into their archetypal suburban home; Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray is reimagined as a foppish Little Nemo; and Camus’s Stranger becomes a brooding, chain-smoking Golden Age Superman. Other source material includes Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, bubblegum wrappers, superhero comics, kid cartoons, and more.” 

Again with the Comics helpfully shares with us what Crime and Punishment would look like, if told as a 1940’s Batman comic.

Comic Impact has a quite good summary of this literary comic collection:“The key ingredient that really makes Sikoryak’s book such a success is his ability to perfectly mimic every genre and style of comic art he tries his hand at. Every pane in the book looks like it comes directly from the pen and brush of a Jerry Robinson, Windsor McCay, Bob Kane, Joel Schuster or Jim Davis.”

You can find additional previews at R. Sikoryak’s website.

The New Yorker (“You’re a Good Man, Gregor Brown“) takes a look at a Kafka in Peanuts form. And my favorite of the bunch, Existential Superman in Action Camus:

* Within limits, of course. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was much too much even for me.

Famous Writers, and Make-Believe Recipes

Here’s a fun link from Brainpickings: “Recipes and Household Tips from Great Writers” —

an imaginative and impossibly humorous omnibus of literary impersonation by parodist extraordinaire Mark Crick, who guides us through the art and craft of cooking, gardening, and fixing up the house with the help of some of modern history’s most celebrated literary icons

What a very out of the ordinary idea for a book. Just so we are all clear, these aren’t actual recipes … although there is amusement value in tarragon eggs à la Jane Austen; mushroom risotto à la John Steinbeck; and tiramisu à la Marcel Proust.

For more made up literary recipes (Clafoutis grandmèreà la Virginia Woolf, Onion Tartà la Geoffrey Chaucer, Lamb with Dill Sauceà la Raymond Chandler), check out the excerpts from the Independent: “Reader, I marinated it.” The entirety of the culinary-themed literary parody can be found in  Kafka’s Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes.

And while we’re on the subject, some literary food trivia at the New York Times Sunday Book Review: “Snacks of the Great Scribblers.” It’s quite a selection. “Walt Whitman began the day with oysters and meat, while Gustave Flaubert started off with what passed for a light breakfast in his day: eggs, vegetables, cheese or fruit, and a cup of cold chocolate.” Proust (Espresso, Espresso, Espresso) strikes a chord with me, but Scott Fitzgerald’s writerly snack (Canned Meat and Apples?) is the most conspicuous.


Was Oprah Bad for Literature?

From the New Republic (“Was Oprah Bad for Literature?“). Ok, it’s a provocative question to ask.

Disclosure #1 — After reading the article, I can’t really say I’m all that convinced.

Disclosure #2 — I actively avoid buying books that have the Oprah’s Book Cover sticker. But that’s me.

That being said, here’s the argument:

“Garthwaite looked at the question of whether the Oprah Book Club, over its 15-year life, expanded the book-reading audience. His dispiriting finding was that it did not. Although Winfrey was remarkably successful in getting people to buy the books she touted (and also, to some extent, other books written by the same authors), she did not make readers out of non-readers. Rather, she provoked what’s known in the marketing world as brand-switching. Instead of reading crap, Oprah’s viewers were goaded into reading tonier stuff—mostly literary fiction. In many instances this amounted to reading more demanding crap, but it still represented a step up in literacy. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the profits that help support publication of less lucrative, more high-minded books depend on the sale of a lot of crap.”

Whether Oprah’s Book Club was good or bad for literature likely depends on how one wants to articulate the purpose of OBC. I’m generally going to fall on the side of anything that puts more literature (no, The Road does not count) in the hands of many people. Getting loyal Oprah watchers to read Leo Tolstoy or Toni Morrison instead of trashy romance novels? Sounds good to me. And by most accounts, those Oprah Book Club volumes have sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million copies. That’s a hell of a lot of books no matter how you spin the data.

That being said, I think Jonathan Franzen had a point somewhere (even though he sometimes gives the rest of us snobs a bad reputation).

Also, a recap of Oprah vs. Jonathan Franzen —

“Eleven years ago Jonathan Franzen caught hell for expressing some ambivalence when Oprah Winfrey selected his novel The Corrections for her TV book club. Franzen said that though Winfrey was “really smart” and “fighting the good fight” for the book business, she also “picked enough schmaltzy, one-dimensional [books] that I cringe, myself” at being selected. He added that he thought The Corrections would prove “a hard book for that audience.” On hearing about these slights, Winfrey cancelled Franzen’s scheduled appearance on her show. Realizing he’d been rude (or perhaps just realizing that his ingratitude would likely cost him some book sales) Franzen apologized to Winfrey, who subsequently chose Franzen’s Freedom as one of the book club’s final selections last year.”

By the way, here is the complete list of all 70 Oprah’s Book Club titles.

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, The Video Game

Interested in news about literature as video games? Of course you are.

From GalleyCat: “Henry David Thoreau Video Game Gets $40,000 NEA Grant” (, I thought you’d be keen on this one): “The University of Southern California has received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to produce a video game based on the work of Henry David Thoreau.”

It’s definitely going to be a different type of literary video game, than say, Dante’s Inferno. The official USC project description:

“Walden, a game, simulates the experiment in living made by Thoreau at Walden Pond in 1845-47, allowing players to walk in his virtual footsteps, attend to the tasks of living a self-reliant existence, discover in the beauty of a virtual landscape the ideas and writings of this unique philosopher, and cultivate through the gameplay their own thoughts and responses to the concepts discovered there. The game will take place in a real-time 3D environment which will replicate the geography of Walden Pond and the woods in which Thoreau made his home using both game technologies and video. Beyond the replication of a virtual environment, however, the gameplay itself will embody the experiment that Thoreau set for himself, reinforcing the basic messages of his work.”

I’m not going to lie: it sounds kind of boring, as far as video games go. But I’m still intrigued in how one would go about translating a book like Walden, into video game form. I wonder what percentage of Walden game players will play the game without reading the book first?

“Walden, a game posits a new genre of play, in which reflection and insight play an important role in the player experience. While traveling the virtual world of Walden, the player applies themselves to both daily task of maintaining the basic aspects of life at Walden Pond, as well as having the opportunity to focus on the deeper meaning behind events that transpire in the world. By attending to these events, the player is able to gain insight into the natural world, and into connections that permeate the experience of life at Walden.”

Henri Matisse, and James Joyce’s Ulysses

This is awesome. Open Culture: “Henri Matisse Illustrates 1935 Edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses” —

“Back in the mid-1930s, George Macey, an American publisher, approached the celebrated painter and asked him how many etchings he could provide for $5,000. Although it’s widely believed that Matisse never read Joyce’s sprawling classic (despite being provided a French translation of the text), he did come back with 26 full-page illustrations, all of them based on six themes from Homer’s Odyssey, the epic poem that Ulysses consciously plays upon. In 1935, an illustrated edition of Ulysses was printed. Matisse signed 1500 copies; Joyce only 250. And today a copy signed by both artists will run you a cool $30k. Buy, hey, the shipping is only $6.”

$30,000 sounds like way too much. I would not go any higher than $25,000.

In any case, here’s a helpful blog post from the Princeton Library with more on the historic collaboration: “Matisse and Joyce