And the Bard lives on...

22 March 2016 - 02:12 By Andrew Donaldson


Hard-boiled Hilarity PIMP by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr (Titan Books) R225A new street drug called pimp - an acronym for peyote, insulin, mescaline and psychosis - gives low-rent dealer Max Fisher another crack at the big time in ultra-sleazy Hollywood. Part pastiche, part paean to the golden age of the pulps, it's littered with bloodstains and killer one-liners.The issueApril 23 is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death and to mark the occasion there's a bunch of new Bard-related books. So, what to read or not to read. The Hogarth Shakespeare series, contemporary novelisations of the plays, has begun promisingly with Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time, a reworking of A Winter's Tale, and Howard Jacobson's Shylock is my Name, an inspired subversion of The Merchant of Venice. Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl, a "retelling" of The Taming of the Shrew, and Margaret Attwood's take on The Tempest, Hag-Seed, will be published in June and October respectively. (All Hogarth.)Two works of nonfiction worth noting for their local flavour are Andrew Dickson's Worlds Elsewhere: Journeys Around Shakespeare's Globe (Bodley Head) and Edward Wilson-Lee's Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures with the Ever-Living Poet (Edward Collins). In the former Dickson attempts to discover why Shakespeare flourished behind the Iron Curtain and in apartheid South Africa. It includes the story of how a Complete Works was smuggled onto Robben Island in the 1970s and how Nelson Mandela marked his favourite lines, from Julius Caesar: "Cowards die many times before their deaths."Wilson-Lee's book is a glorious melange of travel, biography, history and satire in which misfits, explorers, intellectuals, colonialists, settlers, eccentrics and politicians live out their dreams in East Africa through Shakespeare: Karen Blixen impressed The Merchant of Venice upon her servants, future Ugandan president Milton Obote played Julius Caesar as a university student, Tanzania's Julius Nyerere translated his works into Swahili and Daniel arap Moi attempted to overturn a ban on teaching Shakespeare in Kenyan schools by declaring he was "an international" figure rather than "a colonial hangover".Crash courseExistentialists are nonconformists, care about freedom, have interesting sex lives, tackle painful issues, try to be genuine and will stay up all night arguing why this is important. So says Sarah Bakewell, whose acclaimed At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails (Chatto and Windus) takes us back to an age when Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their gang were sexy, glamorous and outrageous. These days we have to make do with Kim and Kanye.The bottom line"More than anyone else, Malcolm moulded Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali. Under Malcolm's tutelage, he embraced the world stage, emerging as an international symbol of black pride and black independence." - Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith (Basic Books).

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