- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Nov. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571245021
- ISBN-13: 978-0571245024
- Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 4.2 x 21 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 422,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets: A New Commentary Hardcover – 4 Nov 2010
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'What Paterson is really concerned with - and where the book soars above the competition - is how the poems work; how Shakespeare uses and abuses the sonnet form to achieve his effects.
Given that Paterson is one of the finest living poets working in the sonnet form, he brings to this a craftsman's insight and refreshing candour... The great merit of this book - and where it differs from so much academic literary criticism - is that, however eccentric it may occasionally be, it is never dull and frequently brilliant.' --Hugh Thomson, Independent
'An entertaining, exuberant and obsessively passionate guide . . . his measured and engaging essays display a deep and sophisticated understanding of every aspect of the poems ... Even the seasoned Shakespeare aficionado will come away knowing something new or aware of some subtle change of emphasis that might widen their enjoyment and experience of the sonnets ... The insights and opinions the book contains are fascinating... Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets is an impressive work and there is a lifetime of enjoyment to be had from this loquacious and erudite book.' --Adam O'Riordan, Sunday Telegraph
'Like all the best literary criticism, it combines highly sensitive attention to detail - the exact meaning of a word, the way in which a poetic image does its work, the tricks of metrical variation - with due awareness of historical context and specificity. It's also great fun.' --Jonathan Bate, Financial Times
'What we have is a splendidly energetic and thought-provoking exercise in close textual reading that is written in a prose style which veers wildly from the colloquium to the colloquial to the downright chatty ... this humanely priced volume does the one thing truly needful: it takes the fear out of reading Shakespeare.' --Irish Times
'Like all the best literary criticism, it combines highly sensitive attention to detail - the exact meaning of a word, the way in which a poetic image does its work, the tricks of metrical variation - with due awareness of historical context and specificity. It's also great fun.' --Jonathan Bate, Financial Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
'Paterson is simply one of the best living poets in the UK.' Jackie Kay, ObserverSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
After he has said of Vendler's 'The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets', `Her book is a supreme example of the kind of book there should be more of', he adds, `I'm having my copy rubberised so I can catch it again after I've thrown it at the wall.' I feel exactly the same way about his book: there ought to be more like it and sometimes I want to throw it at the wall. If you love Shakespeare, this is a book to which you will not be indifferent.
I did not buy this book earlier because it was criticised for missing objectives that, I now know, Paterson did not have. Did the critics read the Introduction? There, Paterson sets out clearly his purpose. He distinguishes between `secondary reading' (more or less, serious literary criticism) and `primary reading' (more or less, responding directly to what a poem says). He gives as his aim, `to show [the sonnets] as poems still capable of inviting and rewarding the kind of primary reading I've described, and this is what this book sets out to do.' And his book does that superbly.
Paterson's great strength is in being a poet himself and saying, with some authority, things outside the normal range of critical comment, things like `[so-and-so] rather takes it all at face value - as do most other commentators, forgetting that poets often just tell folk what they think they want to hear, themselves included.' It's about time somebody said things like that. And he says many things like that in the book.
No faults? For me, only two irritations.Read more ›
This is an individualistic view of the Sonnets from an academic and a poet. Paterson has taken each of the 154 Sonnets in turn and written a Reaction Piece on each: not a critique as such, but an informed individual's response written in one sitting, effectively. The learning which has informed the reaction is always interesting, and if the style at times is a little too colloquial to make easy the transition between Shakespeare's verse (each Sonnet is printed before the response) and Don Paterson's prose, at least this reinforces the dialogue which Paterson is building between writer and reader. It also helps to break down the false reverence for "The Bard", something that can come between a real relationship with the work itself.
I also like the way that Paterson looks at the Sonnets as works of craft as well as of art: the poet pulling together complex emotions into a standard sonnet form, at times it seems hammering language and emotion into a shape that works.
I don't agree with a lot of what Paterson says (well, actually I agree with much, but it's the disagreements that stand out - for example his reaction to Sonnet 144!) but that only makes the text more engaging, and actually helped to sharpen up my own critical response. It's also spurred me to learn by heart more of the Sonnets, and (re)introduced me to some that I MUST have read but had no recollection of whatsoever!
Perhaps my final comment to show how good this book is: I lent it to a colleague two weeks ago, and she refuses to give it back!
His unbuttoned manner, however, results in lots of unexplained jargon of the lit-crit and lad-Brit (Scot?) varieties. We ignorant Yanks will need a glossary whenever an American publisher decides a transatlantic edition is worth taking a chance -- and it is.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Some time ago, I set myself the long, pleasurable task of reading all Shakespeare's plays with the help of commentaries (mainly Arden) and the RSC DVDs. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Christopher J.
Paterson is an obvious Stratfordian. He toes the party line and, as all Stratfordians, deliberately ignores the elephant in the room. Read morePublished on 7 July 2014 by Mac Cooper
Don Paterson admits that he wrote this book 'in a tearing hurry' and it certainly shows. Hopefully some of the many mistakes will be excised from future editions. Read morePublished on 24 Jun. 2014 by Elodie
This was, without a doubt, one of the most readable and insightful commentaries that I have ever encountered . Read morePublished on 1 Jan. 2014 by martyn holmes
This book appeals to me as the author gives not only his expertise on construction of and language used in the sonnets, but also gives his personal response to them. Read morePublished on 12 Oct. 2012 by Ruth
I bought this to accompany a re-reading of the sonnets, but rapidly wished I hadn't. I became progressively irritated by Paterson's flip, badly expressed and arrogant judgements. Read morePublished on 16 Sept. 2012 by Gareth James