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Novel Approaches

Reviews of The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet and Broadway Lights.

Myrlin Hermes delivers the kind of wit, creativity, and verbal eloquence which is rarely seen in contemporary novels in The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet.
This remarkable book can be enjoyed by just about anybody who likes the English language and a good story; however, it is so rife with Shakespearean in-jokes and puns that advance knowledge of Shakespeare's plays makes the experience of reading all the more enjoyable.

The Lunatic, The Lover, and the Poet takes place largely in the years before Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, with Prince Hamlet at Wittenberg University. First-person narration oscillates between Hamlet's faithful friend Horatio and a mysterious noblewoman called Adriane. All three are locked in a torrid pan-sexual love triangle, made even more complicated by the arrival of the dashing Master William Shake-speare, a rival poet whom Horatio despises.

Hermes blends history with fiction and makes nimble use of Shakespeare's characters for her own story with a shameless audacity comparable to Tom Stoppard (the author of another Hamlet variation, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.) She is neither disrespectful to the Bard -- nearly every page is populated with some allusion or tribute to a Shakespeare play or sonnet -- nor constrained by a slavish reverence to his original work.

Like Shakespeare, the author's love for language and its possibilities shines through on every page. Hermes is truly a master of the bawdy double entendre. For instance, Hamlet tells Horatio that he has stolen a collection of poems from Adriane after a sexual tryst by stating, "I fingered her packet before I withdrew."

Indeed, Hermes should be applauded for her successful efforts with this book. After all, wasn't Shakespeare's own success based on his ability to take the raw material of stories he already knew from another source and manipulate them into his own distinctive form and content?

Next Page: Broadway Lights

Broadway Lights
, the latest installment of Jen Calonita's Secrets of My Hollywood Life series, is a novel no young theaterista will be able to put down. The story unfolds through the first-person narrative of 17-year-old Kaitlin Burke, a heroine just as smart and likable as Twilight's Bella Swan, but who hangs out with celebrities instead of vampires.

Kaitlin leaves behind her Beverly Hills mansion for a penthouse apartment in TriBeCa, from which she can take a car service to rehearsals for Meeting of the Minds, a new West End transplant described as "More PG-friendly and comical than other teen-driven shows like Spring Awakening."

Unquestionably, Calonita knows her audience: Within the first 10 pages she's already made two references to Twilight, and the rest of the book is littered with allusions to High School Musical, Wicked, and Hollywood heartthrobs Zac Efron and Chace Crawford. Indeed, real and fictional characters collide as Kaitlin and her posse deal with rival celebutantes, the pressures of teen dating, and nosy entertainment media types.

The novel is sure to appeal to fashionistas as well. Calonita, a former senior editor at Teen People, spends an inordinate amount of time describing what her characters are wearing; the designs of Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, and Christian Siriano all make an appearance in Kaitin's wardrobe.(Do clothes really make the girl?) Yet, for all of the novel's superficiality, there are some worthwhile lessons to be learned from this book, like how not everyone will like you no matter how hard you try or the importance of honesty, both in life and in art.

More importantly, Calonita brings her industry know-how to Broadway Lights, which will be quite informative to anyone just starting a hopefully lifelong relationship with the Great White Way.