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Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook Paperback – August 25, 2009
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"Brilliant/Highbrow" --New York Magazine's Approval Matrix
Bench Pick --The New Yorker, The Book Bench blog
"[O]ne of the funniest and wittiest books I've read in years, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves literature" --Curled Up With a Good Book
"Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook is the most ingenious and entertaining book about classic literature that I have ever read" --BookLoons.com
About the Author
Sarah Schmelling has written about entertainment, travel, and pop culture for The Washington Post, Spin, Paste, Salon, Newsweek, Real Simple, the Los Angeles Times, Variety, McSweeney’s, and The Huffington Post. She lives with her husband and son outside of Washington, DC. Ophelia Joined The Group Maidens Who Don’t Float: Classic Lit Signs On To Facebook is her first book.
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Elizbeth Bennet posted a comment: OK, Jane, but did you HAVE to tell the world about all those ridiculous
gifts Mr. Collins sent me, especially that Chai Cream Frappucino? (And what is that, anyway?)
William Shakespeare (through the best efforts of author Sarah Schmelling) has founded the Classics-Gone-Facebook Network.
Miss Havisham, Humbert Humbert, Dr. Jekyll and Beowulf joined the network.
Scrooge joined the network, but is rejecting friend requests.
Huck Finn, Oscar Wilde and Ernest (call me "Papa") Hemingway have joined the network.
Sarah Schmelling reports that Jane Austen is now friends with Helen Fielding, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and 4,534 others, and is still wondering who all these people are and why they are all forming clubs to discuss her books.
If I were one iota as clever and witty as Sarah Schmelling, I would try to write this review in the same Facebook style that Schmelling has used to celebrate and poke fun at her favorite literary figures (both authors and characters) as well as to settle scores with those she could live without. (To his disgust, Humbert's admin blocks his account for his yearnings over Lolita, while still allowing Lady Chatterley and the gamekeeper to continue with their antics.) I know my limitations, and will have to stick to the traditional format, however...
Schmelling's first stab at turning literature into Facebook feeds was a hilarious reinterpretation of Hamlet that 'went viral' on the Internet a year or more ago. (The book's title comes from that.) From the moment when "Ophelia removed "moody princes" from her interests", I was hooked, and laughed so loud that I ended up with a severe case of hiccups that took at least an hour to cure. So I was delighted to learn that she was taking her talents to a wider stage and tackling a larger array of literary targets, and snapped up the book at the first possible opportunity.
The result is clever in a smart way -- the kind of humor that feels more and more hard to find these days. It's likely to appeal to everyone from die-hard Shakespeare fans (Imogen wonders if she's trapped in a 'problem play') to those who all-too-vividly recall their losing battles with great works of literature in high school. (Odysseus adds 'Homeward Bound' his playlist, while Romeo misses out on a crucial personal message from Friar Lawrence, with unfortunate consequences.) Facebook itself doesn't escape a deft skewering at Schmelling's hands, as she creates an ersatz FB-style quiz, "Which Dystopia Are You In: 1984, Brave New World, or Social Media?"
This is a great book to dip into when you need a laugh, and it's the first to really spoof the whole social networking phenomenon, with the proliferation of not-always-friendly 'friends', offbeat lists of "25 things about me" (Darcy, we learn, is fed up with being an archetype), and pokes (Gulliver gets lots of tiny ones from the Lilliputians.) It's simply one of the funniest books I've picked up in a long time, I'm glad that since it exists on my Kindle, I'll have it with me while I travel, ready to add a sense of perspective to life's idiocies. (It's also going to make a GREAT holiday and birthday gift for about half of my friends...)
I've rated this 4.5 stars because not all the segments are of the same high caliber as the Hamlet news feed; nor do some of Schmelling's efforts at replicating the Facebook formula work as well as others -- the news feeds and status updates are great, the applications more uneven (why does Elizabeth Bennet throw a sheep at Mr Darcy??). Nor is this a book that you can sit and read from cover to cover without finding it a bit repetitive. Just pick it up, choose a chapter and jump into this bibliomaniac's delight -- discover what circle of hell you happen to be in, and take a look at the snaps Odysseus took on his way home. I've rounded this up to five stars because of the originality, wit and flair.
Highly recommended to anyone who relishes intelligent and literate wit -- or anyone who just never understood all the fuss about Dickens and would really enjoy poking fun at Oscar Wilde.
For Kindle owners: this is a surprisingly excellent book for Facebook. All the illustrations are very clear (a pleasant change from the usual experience) and the book format reproduces clearly. I wouldn't have any hesitation recommending the Kindle version just because the book isn't a traditional format.