Park, Samuel, “Shakespeare’s Sonnets”. Alyson, 2006
The Bard’s Boy?
I got a double treat this week. One was the DVD of “Boys Briefs 3” from Picture This Entertainment and the other was Samuel Park’s beautiful short novel, “Shakespeare’s Sonnets”. It wasn’t until I began reading the book that I realized I had heard the story before. It is one of the short films on the Picture This DVD and as good of a short movie it is, the book is that much better. It is intense, it is literary, it is provocative and it is romantic. Who could ask for more?
“Shakespeare’s Sonnets” deals with one of the great literary mysteries of all time. To whom did the Bard of Avon write his sonnets? Some believe they were written to a young boy and this is what the book is all about. Set in 1948 at Harvard, Adam Standridge has dreams of becoming a scholar of literature. His family is wealthy and has power and he follows their dictates to the letter. He is engaged to be married to the girl worthy of his station in life but like all things, there was a surprise in store for him. Dabbling in the indiscreet, he gets busted by the campus police for having sex with another man in a public place. This act could result in his expulsion from the venerable bastion of learning so he decides that in order to save himself his studies must be taken a bit more seriously. When he enrolls in a new class about Shakespeare’s sonnets, he meets Jean Hayman who becomes his confidant and dear friend. Hayman, like Standridge, has a love for language and he also loves men. As the men get to know one another better, sparks begin to fly and Adam realizes that the life that was planned for him by his family is not the life he wants. Pushing aside the trappings of name and wealth, Adam looks for himself in his lover’s eyes and the two begin a romance that would make any of us jealous.2
This novel touches the heartstrings—not just in plot but in lyric beauty and command of the English language. It is a beautiful story of first love and that one moment that we all face when we decide how we are going to tackle our fate in the world Do we walk our own path or do we choose, like Thoreau’s different drummer, the path to happiness regardless of the consequences. We al have has to make that decision sometime in our lives and it has altered the course of our lives. Most of us did not have the beauty of the language or the scenic beauty that Samuel Park provides in his book but the outcome is usually the same in that we become who we want ourselves to be.
“Shakespeare’s Sonnets” is a love song to youth and to love and the tenderness and exquisite writing will stay with you long after you have read the book. Park himself is an English academician and that can be felt in his novel. He combines sensitivity with truth and we only have to ask ourselves if the book is really about two fictional characters or is it our own personal life story? This is one not to miss.