Iago (International Edition) Paperback – Jan 3 2012
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<DIV><DIV>“[A] familiar coming-of-age story with a touch of Elizabethan finery. . . . A likable page-turner about love, war and conspiracy in the early 16th century.” – Kirkus </DIV><DIV> </DIV><DIV><DIV>“Snodin gives readers a closeup of an unforgettable villain: his charm, his strength, his capacity for brutality and manipulation . . . . while simultaneously taking readers on a dark, fast-paced adventure with satisfying moments of humor and romance.” – Publishers Weekly</DIV><DIV> </DIV><DIV><DIV>“Readers won’t need a thorough knowledge of Shakespere’s Othello to enjoy this vivid. . . novel, which is filled with all the drama, intrigue, and violence of Renaissance Italy—and even a little romance on the side.” – Library Journal</DIV><DIV> </DIV><DIV><DIV>“richly cinematic” – AARP</DIV><DIV> </DIV><DIV>“I thoroughly enjoyed being swept up in the setting; I swam with the characters in the muck of the Venetian canals and ran for shelter in the Paduan monastery where they briefly hid. . . for pure entertainment, Iago hit its mark.” – The Washington Independent Review of Books
</DIV><DIV>“Finely drawn characters inhabit this riveting novel. . . . a many layered story righ in its unfolding. . . Snodin weaves a masterful tale of treachery as various truths and sedition are uncovered in a compelling march to the conclusion.” – About.com</DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV>
“Iago is back and more deadly than ever. . . . The novel pulls us through one just-missed-him confrontation after another, leaving a slick trail of blood, sleeping throats cut and chests pierced. . . . [Snodin drops] witty allusions as freely as Puck sprinkles love potion around the forest. And the large cast of characters is wonderfully well drawn. . .” – The Washington Post
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
David Snodin was William Shakespeare's script editor. He worked on the BBC's epic series of Shakespeare's plays, and0 his award-winning television production credits also include Jane Austen's Persuasion, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. He lives in London and Crete.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Pros: Iago. The name conjures up all that is 16th Century literature, European and Mediterranean coasts cloaked in the mists of violence, predatory religious zealots, mercenaries and ribald courtiers. The novel holds plenty of these. The balloon of expectation rose high upon reading the back matter, no doubt written by the book-manager at Snodin's publisher. It rose even higher when I began and found that the author has deftly slipped from one present-tense point of view for one character into another omniscient point of view for all others. Love IT! So seamlessly done anyone could ogle the scene changes and p.o.v. shifts with an eye to learning Snodin's skill.
There is so much good about this book, from its opening idea to the creation of interesting, varied, and colorful characters. The setting is pure gold with a wealth of costume and period detail. The movement is good, and the pace engaging. But. Everything comes to a screeching halt over the one thing that should make this novel rise from the shelves and fly to great heights.
Cons: The whole concept of the novel is completely deflated by utter bastardization of what should be lyrically florid language. Going back to Writing 101 - Please do not have people grunt, laugh, choke, snort, or ejaculate words. Throughout IAGO, certain characters consistently grunt, choke, and gasp dialog. Even once you get past the effulgent dialog tags, the words themselves are so anachronistic as to stop the read not with the poetic brilliance, but to give time for the eyes to quit rolling uncontrollably over such witticisms as "They sounded . . . nice," she says. Oddly, some sentences have misplaced words that jump out at the reader, "from" being one, which seem to tag the ends rather than a punctuation mark. I know this is an uncorrected proof, but, that's rather pointedly something someone should have caught, because it isn't part of the sentence structure from. Like that.
I can overlook a great deal as a reader when it comes to punctuation. Especially if you are out to tantalize us with period-perfect language. Dots and commas are a nuisance but a necessary tool of the trade. Unclosed quotes and rippling comma splices are not my target, but the book at this stage is loaded with punctuation anomalies. Languid paragraphs consisting of only one sentence and myriad commas, or actually two or three sentences separated by commas, feel, rather than Faulkner-esque, more like drowning. Again, hopefully, that will change in the final edit.
One real eye-gouger is the incessant repetition of first and last names. Almost all the characters with the exception of Iago, are belabored with their full names often with added titles. Annibale Malipiero is never just Annibale or Malipiero. Governor Lodovico Stornello is never Lodovico, or Governor Stornello. He is always Lodovico Stornello. Graziano Stornello and Gentile Stornello his brothers, must be introduced with the whole moniker intact each time, too. There are relatives galore, but most readers who would pick up a novel by this title will be able to hold in memory that Lodovico is one of the Stornello brothers without having his name hammered at. I found myself liking the character of Zinerva partly for her blessedly short name.
Plot - Much ado about funerals, sneaking suspicions about Who Killed Desdemona, and killing dozens of innocent people for basically no reason. Long, pointless letters that add nothing to the story. Many Italian names used for intrigue that never really plays out (foreshadowing a Cosa-Nostra follow up, or planting the idea that it all started way back when?) and some really odd use of violent power. See p. 91: Lodovico Stornello is looking for Iago on suspicion of murder, yet anyone who reports seeing the fugitive is tortured and killed in some horrific way. One brave soul goes to his death crying out that he really did see Iago, and told where Iago was headed, so they kill the poor man anyway but use his information to track the fugitive. If this were a movie, that's where the audience would walk out.
In the middle of an escape and what seems to be brutal murder that is later revealed to be only a good head-bashing to knock some arrogance out of an educator, the murderer Iago encourages our First Person Present Tense hero Gentile Stornello to go below and have sex with Franceschina (she of blessed single name). The dialog goes on and on "Go pleasure her. She's in need of delight." (after watching a gory bludgeoning, isn't every woman?) until the reader must wonder that Franceschina has jumped ship and swam for shore while our hero is wondering and finally cajoling Iago to accompany him below and show him how it is done. (EWWWW.) All in all the scene reads like a page from Midsummer Night's Dream, much braying and ineffectual defeat.
For comparison of the uneven writing as it bounces from random over-indulgence of an open thesaurus to blatant modern idioms, take these phrases from the prose:
p. 9, "The two lords ascended steps so vertiginous that the Florentine he had to be lifted from his chair..." Yes, he used vertiginous, adding 'he' after 'the Florentine' which sounds like Southern U.S. dialect.
p. 33, "...arrived here with four ships and a thousand more men, sir...That don't seem to me like a Signor on holiday do." A 'do'? Who talks like that outside of a Bette Davis movie?
p. 81, "If you've got it, flaunt it." And p. 313, "Let's give him a run for his money." Writing 102. Avoid cliches like the plague.
p. 220, "Our interlocutions regularly falter..." ? One could accept this degree of linguistic voracity with sympathetic felicity were it only not so faltering.
p. 268, " ...he seemed to have become a dab hand with the dagger..." dab hand? How veddy British. Please ignore all the others too, like 'bugger,' 'chicklets,' referring to youngsters, and 'squealer.'
p. 269, "... She was heading for the only discernible building... with a roof mostly open to the sky." followed by this dialog: "She'll be getting naked in there, I reckon..." This reviewer is struck speechless.
p. 300, " "I...I...I...I...I..." He looks quite defeated." What?
p. 433, "... I don't do fighting..." the 'do' in italics, as in 'I don't do Facebook, or polo, or football.'
p. 437, "...there was no fudging as to how he had died..." Fudging? again think 1500's.
Between the embroidered satin Signori and well-described scenes of poverty and place, the interesting characters and unique and delicious strangeness of all, I kept thinking, if only SOMEONE had gotten the language right, either an editor or the author himself, this would have been a marvelous work. Snodin is a fantastic talent at ideas and getting this one finished shows a monumental work. I just wish the writing itself had worked WITH the story rather than against it.
Have I missed the point entirely? It is supposed to be farcical? If Mr. Snodin or his editors read this review and please inform me of that intention, I will gladly re-think this review.
However, my initial enthusiasm with the book changed to boredom as I continued to slog through the text. The primary narrative is provided by Gentile Stornello, a youth of fifteen who is caught up in events over which he has little control. Had this been a coming-of-age novel, Gentile's story would have carried the story quite nicely. Titled "Iago" and purportedly dealing with Shakespeare's character, the use of Gentile as narrator and the emphasis on his story seemed misplaced. Rather than focusing on Iago, Snodin meandered through incidents in which Iago was present, but in which he was not primary actor. I found myself looking for reasons to stop reading - that is something that is not my typical reaction to a book I have chosen.
"Iago" could have been a fine novel had it dealt more closely with the title character and his life. However, with the exception of the title and inserting the character of Iago into scenes, almost as an afterthought, this novel could easily have been called "Gentile Stornello." Although intelligently written, this is an average novel and deserves only three stars; it lacks the necessary characteristics that pull the reader into the story and make a novel worthy of five stars.
I got a vision of 16th century Venice, Padua, and Mantua. Author David Snodin gets top marks for historical facts and setting.
The book begins with a scene that seems to be the opening of "Romeo and Juliet." Various quotations from "Hamlet," "Macbeth," and "Othello" are thrown in, perhaps to make the dialogue more authentic although Snodin does a good job with the Italian that in context can be deciphered.
What is missing for 178 pages, all of Part 1, is the character, Iago. He has gone missing from Cyprus after mysterious deaths there of the Moor, Desdemona, and supposedly, Iago's wife. 178 pages wax and wane with a variety of fights, tortures, academic speeches, and kitchen delights. There are only rumors of the infamous Iago.
Finally, in Part II, we meet Iago. But we meet him through Gentile Stronello, age 15. Gentile is naive, foolish, lovelorn, easily swayed. Iago is brutish, but rather well-spoken. For the next 300 pages they dash about Italy, along with the beautiful Franceschina, seeking escape, revenge, and in Gentile's case, a chance at love. Iago focuses on killing, maligning, and flirting.
The last chapter succeeds where the others failed in bringing the strands of the story to conclusion. Had the book carried another title, I might not have chosen it, and yet it would then perhaps have been truer to its cause. As is, I would call "Iago," much ado about nothing.
The author carries strong credentials in filming Shakespeare's works for the BBC. This is his first novel.
1. Where's Iago? I came to this book because the editorial description promised the return of one of Shakespeare's greatest villains, engaging in a battle of wits with Annibale Malipiero, a man who I hoped would have the craftiness to challenge Iago to his limits. But so far, Iago hasn't appeared, and Annibale hasn't done much. I suppose I'm only a quarter through the book, so it's not completely unreasonable that the title character has yet to make a solid appearance, but there's also this second problem...
2. Who is this fifteen year old kid narrating the book? He's dreadfully dull. Gentile Stornello, the bookish cousin of Desdemona, has somehow stumbled into the storyteller's spotlight. So far, he is very distantly involved in the action - a son of a rival family has threatened to beat him senseless unless he finds out more about the mysterious death of his cousin and her Moor husband - but in spite of this, Gentile's getting an awful lot of page time. I assume he'll be important later, but I can only take so much of his teenage angst. He has fallen in LOVE with a girl - the all-caps LOVE, by the way, is not an embellishment of mine, for that's how Gentile's infatuation is described in the text - and he's constantly writing sonnets and thinking about how beautiful she is compared to other great women of Italian literature...and it's just a snore, considering I was expecting a protagonist with a more Machiavellian nature.
The book just isn't working for me. Little things in the way that it's written, like the fact that 'the Florentine' is never identified by his name (Cassio, I presume?) or that anachronistic phrases keep popping up in the oddest places ("If you've got it, flaunt it!" Anyone else have Gypsyflashbacks?) prevented true immersion into the Venice and Cyprus created by Snodin. But take my review with a grain of salt, for as I freely admit I did not finish the book - but one hundred pages is enough time, for *something* to capture my interest, if it was going to happen.
As a secondary criticism, I'm reading an advance reader's copy and I know that these are often unpolished compared to the final book. I especially hope that's true in this case, because the version of "Iago" sitting on my text is replete with misplaced words, punctuation errors and contradictory text. For example, Annibale Malipiero is described as fifty-five and Bonifacio Colonna as fifty-four years old, but in that same sentence it is stated that Colonna is "a few years younger than his colleague". This may not be a particularly important detail, but these things pop up just often enough that it's distracting. But again, I must repeat that I'm looking at an advance copy and these things are hopefully corrected in the final version.
The first act is flat-out awesome. Opening a few short weeks after Othello's death, we see the new governor arriving in Cyprus, eager to learn more about this dastardly villain . . . who seems to have vanished into thin air from a seemingly inescapable prison. Soon, Iago appears to wage a one-man (and one-sided) guerilla war against the Venetians on Cyprus - moving like a whirlwind, but leaving only the bodies of the massacred as his footprints. The local populace revels in hiding this monster. The nobility of Venice is aroused.
The action then returns to the Serene Republic. From this point, the story is told through the eyes of two Venetians. The first is the elderly Annibale Malipiero, head inquisitor (read, torturer) of Venice. He wants to track down Iago to discover the truth behind the monster. The other is the bookish teen Gentile Stornello, a bookish lad with an eye for beauty and a low self-esteem. Malipiero and Stornello engage in a bizarre chase/seduction/interrogation of Iago that occupies the majority of the book, and it is here where Snodin's tale loses some steam.
To the good, Snodin has a firm command of place - Venice and its surrounding territory are fascinating, exotic, dangerous places in Snodin's hands. Snodin also spices up "Iago" with Shakespearean references both obvious and obscure (I'm sure I missed several). And there's some good bloody violence from time to time.
But the plot makes no sense. Snodin treats us to essentially a long-running chase that is in fact an interrogation, as the pursuers remain just off-stage so Stornello can interrogate Iago for the inquisitor's benefit. This makes no sense, particularly since the Iago of the first portion of the book would simply butcher his pursuers. Plus, it's not entirely clear what revelations the inquisitor expects to hear that justify such a ridiculous exercise.
"Iago" also bogs down in some half-baked devices like a love interest for Iago who disappears as quickly as she arrives on stage. Iago also alternately abuses and assists Stornello without any reason . . . which renders Iago more bipolar than captivating.
All in all, the tremendous promise of Act I falls in the later pages. Kudos to Mr. Snodin for undertaking such an ambitious project, but ultimately it fails to live up to its potential . . . darnit.