The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #3: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film 2

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #3 by John King

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)

Shakespeare’s language is sometimes poopooed by naïve readers as too old. I have, as a professor, been told good-naturedly by sniffing students that he wrote in Old English. In fact, Shakespeare is too new for the Middle English of Chaucer. His language is modern.

His style, on the other hand, is a beautiful monster that is unique, throughout history, to him. Compare him to his contemporaries—they are not difficult to understand. The power of Shakespeare’s language has to do with how deeply he saw into the human condition, and how he created a style capable of expressing it. He did so with bathos, mixing erudition and country speech. He did so by letting speech extend itself in soliloquies, the forerunner of the internal monologues of the Modernist era. He did so with the giddy delight of a genius, using every word at his disposal.

While good actors make the language natural and relatively easy to understand through the context of performance, film directors who approach the bard often feel a certain zap upon their heads. How can they compete with the amazing fire of his words?

One gesture, in visual and musical terms, is pomp, to make the scene a triumph of grandeur … and this can sometimes work, although by now it’s a cliché of Shakespeare films, and tends to be the most unimaginative point-of-entry for fleshing out the plays. Oh, it’s Shakespeare, so polish the brass and gold, wear finery, tell the orchestra to make the listeners’ nipples hard.

a midsummer nights dream poster

In Michael Hoffman’s 1999 adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the solution was to relocate the play to Italy, and use opera and Felix Mendelssohn’s music to parallel the grandeur of Shakespearean language. Verdi’s “Brindisi,” the delightful drinking song from La Traviata, appears several times. The musicality of Italian opera smoothens out the potential strangeness of the play’s words.

This movie thrived on what is often one of the pitfalls of Shakespearean casting: Hollywood. Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer have top billing, and they don’t disappoint. Kevin Kline manages to imbue Nick Bottom, the excitable amateur actor, with humane empathy while still exploiting the part for broad laughter.

Midsummer Nights 3

Michelle Pfeiffer, siren of current day lyricists, is credibly sexy and regal as the Fairy Queen.

Midsummer Night 4

Rupert Everett as the fairy king Oberon and Stanley Tucci as his satyr servant Puck seem really wonderful together, subtly reactive to one another’s performance, but comically out-of-synch.

Midsummer Nights 2

Sam Rockwell as the amateur actor Francis Flute steals a scene late in the play, suggesting the amazing actor he would later become. Calista Flockhart, as the woebegone Helena, turns out to be much funnier than I could have anticipated from those scary ninety seconds when I tried to watch Ally McBeal back in 1998.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, 1999, © Fox Searchlight  TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

The movie has a deep bench, including numerous actors who would become famous after this movie, like Christian Bale and Dominic West (that guy from The Wire).

David Straithern, as King Theseus, gives the only wooden performance, as if he could not get past remembering the lines in order to emote anything from them. Sophie Marceau (who was the princess in Braveheart and Elektra Kane is The World is Not Enough) easily outacts him in this movie, even though English is not her first language.

The first Hollywood go at this play (1935) starred Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, and Mickey Rooney. The thing is beyond unwatchable.

a-midsummer-nights-dream 1935

When my doctor says I can drink again, I’ll try to review it.

This 1999 version may be the most fun film of Shakespeare’s work. Dream is, after all, a comedy. It is a love story, but the theme is that love is an inexplicable form of madness.

A Midsummer Nights Dream

So, you know, the story is true.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

Episode 168: Eleanor Lerman!

Episode 168 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Check out the great perks for The Drunken Odyssey’s fundraiser here.

In this week’s episode, I talk to the poet and novelist Eleanor Lerman,

Eleanor Lerman

plus Nancy Caronia reads her essay, “Quiet.”

Nancy Caronia



Check out the great perks for The Drunken Odyssey’s fundraiser here.

If you live in Orlando, check out Meg Sefton’s upcoming workshop on the fundamentals of flash fiction here. It will take place on September 27, 2015.

To read about Kate Gale’s controversial piece about AWP’s diversity issues, check out this LA Times story. To read her apology, go to her personal blog.

Nancy Caronia’s “Quiet” first appeared on The New Delta Review.

Episode 168 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #101: Hell Comes to Frogtown

The Curator of Schlock #101 by Jeff Shuster

Hell Comes to Frogtown

(Frog People Got No Reason to Live)

One would think that after one hundred blogs that your humble curator would be an expert on all things schlock, but even I still get surprised sometimes. Case in point, Hell Comes to Frogtown, the 1988 cult hit from directors Donald G. Jackson and R. J. Kizer–wait a minute! How can you have two directors on one movie? They’re not even brothers…I think. The DVD didn’t even come with an audio commentary track.


By the way, this was a tough DVD to track down. There must of have been a rush on them with the sad passing of Roddy Piper.  He plays Sam Hell, a wandering vagabond, one of the last virile men left in the world after the nuclear apocalypse. Yeah, it seems that countries started flinging nukes at each other until everything was obliterated. I blame the Commies. It’s always the Commies!


Anyway, some post apocalyptic medical company makes him sign a membership contract so that his membership can be used impregnate the few remaining fertile women left on planet Earth. Sam Hell has an unusually high sperm count, which Sam Hell chalks up to all that fiber he ate when he was a kid. They make him wear an electronic jock strap that shocks his twig and berries should try to initiate anything with any infertile women.


If Mad Max Fury Road taught me anything, it’s how valuable fertile women are after a nuclear apocalypse.  In fact, Fury Road follows the plot of Frogtown so closely that you could almost accuse George Miller of plagiarism. Switch out the War Boys for a bunch of talking frogs and you basically have the same movie.

Yeah, there are talking frogs in this movie. They’re kept on a reservation, and I don’t want to hear any of you “frogs have rights” activists pitching a fit over the fact that I support the idea of talking frog reservations. They have the bad habit of stealing our fertile women.


The leader of the frogs is named Toady and he’s a real piece of work. He makes the captive women dance the “Dance of the Three Snakes” and you don’t want to know what that’s about. Anyway, Sam Hell infiltrates the frog reservation with Nurse Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) in disguise as a slave girl. They escape with the women, there’s a desert car chase, and Sam Hell fights the evil Toady to the death! You know, they should really put mutant frogs in the next Mad Max movie. Just make Hell Comes to Frogtown part of the Mad Max cinematic universe, George Miller!

Roddy Piper

April 17, 1954-july 31, 2015


 I hope you’re kicking ass and chewing bubblegum in the next world just as you did in this one.


Photo by Leslie Salas

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

McMillan’s Codex #1: A Manifesto

McMillan’s Codex #1 by C.T. McMillan

A Manifesto

Videogames today are going through a renaissance—kind of.  Among the avalanches of annual shovel-ware titles are a few gems.  Why, in this time of advanced development technologies are games suffering the same fate of the film industry?  Why are there less art and more product?

The years before the 1980s were the decades of the auteur in Hollywood.  Directors had near absolute control over their projects, free to do as they wished as long as they remained within the reasonable limits of budget.

Speilberg JawsThe results were uncanny, giving way to such classics as The Godfather, Jaws, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars.  It was not until director-controlled titles began to flounder and cost millions in losses that the entire system was rebuilt.  No longer could directors do what they wanted without constant oversight from the producers.  Gradually the quality of movies waned into degradation, reduced to soulless product.

While the decay of videogames did not happen in the same fashion, both instances are similar.  I remember when games had a quality next to none in entertainment.  Call of Duty was one such title, its gameplay and cinematic moments awe inspiring before everything changed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 6.00.56 PMWith popularity comes a ferocious demand many developers are often too eager to supply.  Less time was devoted to making something memorable in exchange for quick moments of entertainment like multiplayer gaming.  Content was intentionally extracted from games and sold separately, compounding the burden on customers who already paid the full price.

But a few games are transcendent.  Developers take their time making the experience worth more than a couple hours of single player fun and a vehicle for multiplayer.  Every aspect of those games contains a depth not often seen in contemporary titles.

In “Games, stay away from art. Please,” Eric Zimmerman argues that video games are not worthy of being called art because they are not aesthetically compelling enough to be regarded as art museum masterpieces.  Using art does not mean that a product, such as a video game, is itself art, just like art on the walls do not make a home or the life lived between those walls a work of art. Oddly, Zimmerman sees art as a dead thing.

I disagree with him about art, and more importantly I disagree with him about video games and their potential as fine art. Yes, video games are new, hybrid forms that take on qualities from a variety of sources. There is an emphasis on craft in video game creation that often seems at the expense of story, of vision. Craft allows for an assembly line of semi-fun titles.

But there are also games out there that are transformative. Such, along with some interesting detours, will be explored in in McMillan’s Codex.


Charles McMillanC.T. McMillan is a film critic and a devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #2: Titus


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Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film 2The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #2 by John King


If a postmodern, ahistorical approach to Shakespeare repulsed me in the hands of Baz Luhrmann, that aesthetic charms the shit out of me in the hands of Julie Taymor in her adaptation of the brutal, early Shakespeare play, Titus Andronicus.

Titus Poster

For example, the campaigning of those who would be emperor of Rome, as well as the victory party of the successful consul, is accompanied by the syncopated horns of swing jazz. The middle of the twentieth century (fascism, cars, music, technology) is conflated with the architecture, aesthetics, and technology of ancient Rome without any sense of self-congratulation (a la Baz Luhrmann). The viewer doesn’t get the sense that the director thinks all art is beautiful and crazy.

Titus 6

Rather, one gets the sense that the violence of antiquity and the present day are rooted in the continuous psychology of the human race.

Titus 4

The film begins with a little boy smashing a variety of his toys (fighter planes, Roman soldiers, wind-up robots) and desserts before a loud television in a rage of childish glee.

Titus 2

The building he is in is bombed as Titus Andronicus returns with the Roman army in a triumph that belies his weariness at having killed so many, at having lost so many, including his sons. The boy from the opening scene will turn out to be Lucius, Titus’s grandson.

The difference, of course, is that Julie Taymor imagines that art might matter, that the mad fugue of smashing that young Lucius undertakes is not, as Bas Luhrmann seems to think, the sum total of art itself, even if such anarchy might be a part of art, and a significant part of the human condition. We should not be content with that.

Titus 2

When you have a screenplay involving ritual slayings, dismemberment, and cannibalism, it helps if Anthony Hopkins is your lead actor; what makes Titus even more disturbing than The Silence of the Lambs, however, is that the story isn’t some vamp on abnormal psychology. The carnage and psychosis of Titus Andronicus is the entirely natural outgrowth of honor and tribalism and war. Clarice Starling represented us trying to see into the mind of madness; the characters of Titus probably are us.

Titus 1

Which is to say Anthony Hopkins is playing a much different character, and really one needs a man of almost unthinkable stature and humility to play this part of the general who does not want to rule Rome. The bombast of the role would sound absurd of a lesser actor. Somehow, Hopkins gives this character a scope one can, despite the odds, empathize with.

Titus 3

Jessica Lange, as Tamora, the vengeful, conquered queen of the Goths, is also deeply impressive, and holds her own against Anthony Hopkins.

Titus 5

Alan Cumming, as Saturninus, is a wonderfully campy tyrant–equal parts Marilyn Manson, Pee Wee Herman, and Hitler.

Titus 5

Harry Lennix, as Aaron, however, is what makes Titus the most sublime.

Titus 9

Aaron the Moor is Shakespeare’s other black part, except that Aaron is all Iago and not at all like Othello. He is Shakespeare’s greatest villain, and his malevolence is astounding. Yet we are given to know why he is willing to destroy so much, and like Richard III has decided to relish the villainous role that has been given to him.

The great strength of Shakespeare is in his characterization, the depth of his understanding of human psychology centuries before this was a mode of human inquiry. We are still learning from him what it means to be human.

We don’t need Shakespeare to seem dusty, or appropriately Elizabethan or medieval or ancient or purely historically accurate (although a thoughtless carelessness with historical setting is disappointing). We don’t need Shakespeare to be acted by the English. We just need good actors, and a director who understands the poetry and the psychology of the words. With Titus, the cast and director Julie Taymor would have pleased Shakespeare immensely, although he would, of course, be impatient for his royalties, should he have lived so long.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

Episode 167: There Will Be Fan Fiction!


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Episode 167 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share a recording of a fan fiction installment of Jesse Bradley’s prose reading series, There Will Be Words.

J. Bradley by Pat Greene

The There Will Be Fan Fiction featured

Teege Braune

Small Wonder

Teege Braune by Pat Greene

Jared Silvia

King of the Hill

Jared Silvia by Pat Greene

Stephanie Rizzo

Lewis and Clark

Stephanie Rizzo by Pat Greene

Genevieve Anna Tyrrell


Genevieve Anna Tyrell by Pat Greene

and moi.

Benny Hill Ace Frehley

John King by Pat Greene


Check out the great perks for The Drunken Odyssey’s fundraiser here.

Check out There Will Be Words.


Episode 167 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #100: Summer Movie Mania!

The Curator of Schlock #100 by Jeff Shuster

Summer Movie Mania

I thought to celebrate my 100th blog entry, I would opine on the various summer blockbusters I had the good fortune (or misfortune) to see this summer. Let’s get busy!


Avengers: Age of Ultron


I’m sorry, but no.

This is where I lose faith in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the whole idea of cinematic universes. I thought this movie was going to be about a bunch of superheroes fighting an army of evil robots.

Yeah, okay, we get that in this movie, but we know Ultron isn’t a real threat because the movie spends half its bloated runningtime preparing us for Thor 3 and Avengers 3 and 4. Disney, you don’t have sell me on future Marvel sequels while I’m in the middle of watching a Marvel movie. And you don’t have to remind me of the Infinity Stones for hundredth time!

All I want to see is killer robots.

That’s what I paid to see!


Mad Max Fury Road

I don’t think I ever really understood the character of Mad Max in the old Mel Gibson movies anymore than I understand the new Tom Hardy version, but we like Tom Hardy over here at the Museum of Schlock mainly for his portrayal of the Batman villain Bane which is the third best Bane performance next to Henry Silva on Batman the Animated Series and that scrawny dude from Batman and Robin.

What I did see in Mad Max Fury Road was Tom Hardy eating live lizards, Charlize Theron with a mechanical robot arm, some disgusting dude with a skull jaw-bone er gasmask attached to his face. I think the bad guy was chasing Max because he stole a tanker full of breast milk.

The whole movie is a blur.

I saw that one in 3D and wearing those 3D glasses always makes me want to pass out. I saw Man of Steel in 3D and the only thing I remember about that movie is that Superman failed to save the Smallville IHOP from getting destroyed. Some superhero he turned out to be.


Pitch Perfect 2

If you liked Pitch Perfect, you’ll like the sequel. We get an evil German A Capella group who really aren’t that evil, they’re just really good at A Capella and they show up our heroines from the first movie. Elizabeth Banks makes her directorial debut with this movie. John Michael Higgins shows up again which is also a plus. Did you know he guest starred on Numb3rs?


San Andreas

 Oh boy. It’s Dwayne Johnson versus a 9.1 earthquake and…well…the earthquake still wins, but Dwayne Johnson still manages to rescue his daughter and his estranged wife played by Carla Gugino.

Don’t worry! They get back together at the end of the movie!

I remember some British tourists and Paul Giamatti and the evil jerk of a boyfriend of Carla Gugino who gets what’s coming to him! Still, after 2012, disaster movies leave me a bit flat. After you see the world get destroyed, seeing San Francisco fall apart just doesn’t compare.

100-E Jurassic World

Best movie of the summer, hands down! Jurassic World feels like a send up to 70s disaster movies if 70s disaster movies had dinosaurs in them! Vincent D’Onofrio steals the show has a military industrialist with a raptor complex. “Imagine if we’d had these at Tora Bora,” he says. All I imagine the raptors doing is eating everyone.


Inside Out

 I didn’t go see Inside Out because I don’t watch movies for babies!


Terminator: Genisys

 Again, I go to see a movie about people fighting evil robots and I get stupidity.

This time Skynet wants to use tablets to cause Judgement Day. It would have been funny if the heroes hadn’t managed to stop Skynet only to see Skynet fail due to tablets not being powerful enough to pull off Judgement Day.

Skynet was played Matt Smith.

Ahhhnold plays an old man Terminator.

They’re planning two sequels.

I can’t wait.


Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation

I like these movies. Whoever came up with the idea of teaming Tom Cruise with Simon Pegg is a genius. I don’t know who played the bad guy, but he was really evil and he reminded me of a turtle for some reason. There are car chases and bad guys shooting at good guys while they’re driving and then the cars crash into things. That’s how I like my summer movies!

And then Simon Pegg says something witty. That’s all I need.


Jeffrey Shuster 3

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

Aesthetic Drift #5: What It’s Really Like Owning a Writing Center

Aesthetic Drift #5 by Racquel Henry

What It’s Really Like Owning a Writing Center

Writer’s Atelier at One Year

For years I have admired creative writing centers like The Center for Fiction in New York, Grub Street in Boston, The Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, and The Porch in Tennessee, just to name a few. These centers balance both the serious and social side of writing. More specifically, they provide a space to focus on or perfect the craft, but they’re also great places to meet other writers. There was nothing like that in central Florida. Why didn’t we have something like that in central Florida? We need something I like that, I thought.


There are many people who dislike the idea of MFA programs, but I am a huge proponent of them. I received my own MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. One of my fondest memories involved sitting on the steps of the mansion (where workshops were held), drinking vodka mango lemonades and discussing craft with my fellow classmates. We were not in a formal setting at that moment, but I remember figuring out a tricky part of a short story I was working on. For me, it’s more than just learning the craft of writing. When you are able to fully submerse yourself in the world of writing, when you surround yourself with people who have similar interests, and when you are held responsible, it does something to you. It forces you to look at your work through a different lens. In my MFA program, I learned about craft, the business of publishing and how to take my writing seriously. You can learn these things about the culture of writing outside of a program, of course, but in my opinion it’s a little harder. I think writing centers help to bridge that gap. They offer the benefits of an MFA program, but without the exorbitant price tag.


Being part of the writing center movement is ridiculously fulfilling. I had an editing company that had done fairly well and I wanted to expand to offer creative writing classes. So many writers complained about not being able to afford either private or college workshops. I wanted to offer an alternative and I felt it my duty to help. When my clients succeed, I get to share in that victory. Often times, it feels like I’ve succeeded too. Most of them don’t know it, but they motivate me. When I see their success, it makes me want to succeed. While my fiction and poetry has been published in various places, the ultimate goal is to have a novel traditionally published. When I work with other writers, I learn a lot about my own writing—what works, what doesn’t, the kind of writer I want to be, etc. Even though it requires a lot of time and dedication, in many instances the reward for helping other writers is more than double what one would expect.IMG_5048

But having a writing center is not that easy and there are definitely dark days. I had plans to start the center much later, but the opportunity fell into my lap and a voice in the back of my mind told me I should take the risk. The building that Writer’s Atelier currently calls home has a decent amount of space and is conveniently located.

I received the keys and got to work emailing people I had kept tabs on in the local literary community.

Soon we were set up for our first workshops, one in person and one online. I spent hours emailing writers on an individual basis. I sought them out on Meetup writing groups and social media. At literary events, I invited them in person.

I posted information in local papers and websites.

I drove around the city and pinned flyers to bulletin boards and taped them to retail windows.

It wasn’t enough. We had to cancel the in-person class.

I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. The class was reasonably priced at a mere $45 (for 4 hours), and I had done everything short of standing on the corner and dancing with a sign to spread the word.

Maybe I should have tried that.

Enter bright idea number two.

I figured maybe I could offer some free classes and then people would come. It would be a great way to get people in the door, and surely they’d be interested in signing up for the paid classes too.

Wrong again.

While some people take advantage of our free events, many, many, do not. I can’t tell you how many writers tell me they’re coming to an event and then don’t show up. I’m the kind of writer who tries to take advantage of anything I can, both paid and free. I am an eager sponge, wanting to soak up every drop of writing information I can find. But owning a creative writing center has taught me that not every writer is like me. There are the serious writers and then there are the writers who do it as a hobby. I am in no way judging anyone. Some people want to make writing a career and some experience joy from writing and that’s enough for them.

Because of this, I believe my greatest challenge will always involve getting people in the door. There isn’t a single day that goes by where I don’t ask myself, “What the hell am I doing?” Writer’s Atelier costs money, takes away from my own writing time, and has added an absurd amount of gray hair, which I still have a hard time admitting. Clearly, I’m insane for taking it on and fighting for it.


But then I get another email asking me to host a launch, or telling me how helpful a workshop or write-in was and for some reason, I just keep going. Our first successful event was a reading and discussion with Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of Til’ the Well Runs Dry. We partnered up with local superstar, Kim Britt of Bookmark It. Kim was one of the first literary friends I made and was gracious enough to sell books at the event, though I had no reputation in the local community. I was worried no one would show up, or worse, Lauren wouldn’t sell books and it would be a waste of her time. I’m happy to say here that I was wrong again. We had a great turnout and many of the guests voiced how inspired they felt from Lauren’s reading.

The center had another small win when we hosted a workshop on the topic of voice, a concept that most writers would agree is hard to grasp. It was led by three successful YA authors, Amy Christine Parker, Christina Farley and Vivi Barnes. Not only was it one of the best turn outs we’ve had for a workshop, but the email responses I received about how much writers learned from the event was overwhelming. The same was true for our Yoga and writing inspiration workshop lead by Ashley Inguanta and almost all of our write-ins, both in which writers are able to spend time producing material.

It’s a lot harder than one thinks to motivate other writers, and keep the lights on, and provide editing services, and balance your own writing. There is always something that needs immediate attention and much of the time it feels like I’m failing miserably. But the positive moments keep me in check.

Writers Atelier

When you’re a writer yourself, you’re told time and time again to keep going. It’s what we do.


RH (High Res)

Racquel Henry is a writer and editor with an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She is also a part-time English Professor and owns the writing center, Writer’s Atelier, in Winter Park, FL. In 2010 Racquel co-founded Black Fox Literary Magazine where she still serves as an editor. She writes literary, women’s, and recently YA fiction. Her stories have appeared in Blink-Ink, Freight Train Magazine, Zest Literary Journal, Lotus-Eater Literary Magazine, The Best of There Will Be Words 2014 Chapbook, and other places.

Buzzed Books #33: Penguin Science Fiction Postcards

Buzzed Books #33 by Dmetri Kakmi

Penguin Science Fiction Postcards — 100 Book Covers in One Box

Penguin Science Fiction Postcards

It doesn’t matter if you are a science fiction reader or not. You will still get a kick out of this smartly designed box that contains one hundred book cover designs from Penguin’s golden age of speculative fiction publishing. The earliest cover represented is Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1935); the most recent is William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition (2003). That’s eighty years of publishing history — almost a century in which to contemplate changing tastes and sensibilities.

Penguin Books was founded in 1935. The nascent company published a wide range of popular titles, including science fiction. H G Wells and Edgar Allan Poe, for instance, appeared in Penguin’s world-famous tri-band design. The explosion of colour and imagination in the post-war years tossed out Penguin’s restrained approach and adopted a pulp sensibility that was in line with Weird Tales magazines, while anticipating the lurid poster art for 1950s science-fiction films. Michael Ayton’s grotesque art for the 1948 edition of Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival is one example.

The psychedelic 1960s and unfettered 1970s ushered in a new age of bizarro. Some covers are so outlandish you wonder what the designers were thinking or smoking when they came up with the concepts. See, for instance, Black Easter or Faust Aleph-Null by James Blush and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by the venerable Philip K. Dick. Even so, they have a stamp of playfulness and individuality that is generally lacking in today’s corporate book design.

I encountered many of these covers in the late 1970s, when some of the authors were at the height of their fame. John Wynham, Philip K. Dick, J. G. Ballard and Robert Heinlein had pride of place on my book shelf.

Demolished Man

But my heartbeat went into overdrive when I came across David Pelham’s 1974 cover for Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man and the 1975 film tie-in for Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle.

Monkey Planet

I worshipped these books when I was a teenager and was crushed when one day they vanished from my collection. And image how excited I was to discover that the 1964 film 7 Faces of Dr Lao was based on Charles G. Finney’s 1935 fantasy The Circus of Dr Lao. It’s represented here with cover art by Alan Aldridge. 

I was part of the Penguin family for fifteen years. In that time I grew to love the iconic brand and to respect its achievements. This fantastic casket puts me in touch with everything that was good about the company. Every word I can think of to describe it is a superlative: bold, smart … And a damned good idea. It may even be a swan song now that Penguin has been randomly acquired by an older house.

Presumably, one is meant to mail these cards to friends. I’m selfish. I’m keeping them for myself.


Dmetri Kakmi

Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) was born to Greek parents in Turkey. He is a writer and editor. The fictionalised memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. He edited the acclaimed children’s anthology When We Were Young. The ghost story ‘The Boy by the Gate’ was reprinted in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. He lives in Melbourne.

Episode 166: A Craft Discussion About VIrginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own with Vanessa Blakeslee!



Episode 166 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk about Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own with Vanessa Blakeslee,

Photo by Ashley Inguanta.

Photo by Ashley Inguanta.

plus Christopher Booth reads “The Disappointment,”

Chris Booth

by Aphra Behn.



A Room of One's Own

Virginia Woolf Feminism and the Reader


Check out The Drunken Odyssey’s fundraiser and related perks here.
The facebook troll pretending to be a customer service page for Target is deeply impressive. Check out the story here.

Episode 166 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.


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