So Long As Men Can Breathe: The Untold Story of Shakespeares Sonnets

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9781458777843: So Long As Men Can Breathe: The Untold Story of Shakespeares Sonnets

In this lively, fascinating account of the publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets, noted biographer Clinton Heylin brings their convoluted history to light, beginning with the first complete appearance of the Sonnets in print in May, 1609. He introduces us to the ''unholy alliance'' involved in this precarious enterprise: Thomas Thorpe, the publisher, a self-described ''well wishing adventurer;'' George Eld, the printer, heavily embroiled in large-scale pirating; William Aspley, the prestigious bookseller, who mysteriously ended his association with Thorpe soon after. Leaving the calamitous world of Elizabethan publishing, Heylin goes on to chart the many editions of the Sonnets through the years and the editorial decisions that led to their present configuration. Passionate, astute, and brilliantly entertaining, the result is a concise and vivid history of perhaps the greatest poetry ever written.

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About the Author:

Clinton Heylin is the author of many books, including Behind the Shades, widely regarded as the definitive biography of Bob Dylan. He lives in Somerset, England


Kirkus Reviews, 4/15/09
“[Heylin has] done his homework and presents in often frisky language some convincing answers to questions that have perplexed scholars for centuries. Did Shakespeare approve the publication of these intimate poems? Who was the ‘W.H.’ of the dedication? Who were the real-life prototypes for the Dark Lady, the Fair Youth and the Rival Poet? Did he write those last two weak Cupid sonnets? Or ‘A Lover’s Complaint,’ that long boring poem published with the Sonnets? Heylin demonstrates a scholar’s diligence...Will not endear Heylin to academics, but does disperse some smoke while fanning the flames of this fiery debate.”

Booklist, 5/1/09
“Heylin produces such an enthralling account...that no ardent Shakespearean will cry, ‘Hold! Enough!’”

Roanoke Time, 4/26/09
“Heylin draws an interesting comparison between William Shakespeare and Bob Dylan, ‘a singer-poet’ himself...The book is also well-referenced, and the sonnets themselves are included, which helps greatly. Lovers of Shakespeare's work as well as historians will benefit from Heylin's definitive work.”

Library Journal, 6/1/09
““With clear prose and an obvious love for his subject, Heylin here celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's sonnets...A literary detective story...that will interest all lovers of Shakespeare and literature.”, June 2009
“[A] riveting account of the tangled publication history of one of our literature’s most famous, and infamously mysterious, volumes...Heylin applies his encyclopedic mental database of the ways and means of bootlegging with a scholarly but entirely unstuffy zeal, revealing in the bargain commonsensical answers to the questions the sonnets have provoked for centuries...Every imaginable question raised by every subsequent edition of the Sonnets is taken on by Heylin, and answered with passion and substance.”

Los Angeles Times, Jacket Copy Blog, 5/20/09
“As to why this is important, partly it's a matter of historical curiosity, because the provenance of the Sonnets has long been questioned, as has the identity of the ‘fair youth’ to whom they were addressed...But more to the point, it has to do with the line between public and private art, between what writers (or singers) create for public consumption and what they create for themselves.”, 6/18/09
“Heylin does a fine job exploring the hurlyburly of the 17th-century publishing netherworld...The rogues’ gallery of publishing pirates contains some entertaining characters, and Heylin’s generally bright style makes many of the characters’ adventures and misadventures enjoyable to follow.”
“Engaging and irreverent...Takes readers inside this early 17th-century milieu of poets, patrons, scribes, and the rampant bootlegging of manuscripts...[A] pithy study that should intrigue both armchair sonnet enthusiasts and professional scholars.”

January, 7/15/09
“It is a testament to Heylin’s art and skill that not only do we sense the presence of the living, breathing Bard in So Long As Men Can Breathe, we also feel the connections between a beleaguered 17th century publishing industry and the one we’re saddled with today. Heylin’s vision is both eye-opening and entertaining. You’ve never seen the publishing industry in this light. You’ve never seen Shakespeare in quite this light. But in the same book? This is one that can’t be missed.”

Miluakee Shepherd Express, 7/16/09
“Aside from deflating a great many theories on Shakespeare's work, Heylin draws interesting comparisons between the manuscript ‘bookleggers’ of Shakespeare's time and the rock tape bootleggers of the '70s and '80s.”, 7/22/09
“[Heylin] brings a fresh voice to the long debate regarding Shakespeare’s sonnets...A concise, well-researched, and accessible account of Shakespeare’s sonnets and the long history of literary debate about the sequence’s origins and meaning...Heylin’s easy tone reminds us that Shakespeare was, and perhaps still is, a part of popular culture...It’s entirely refreshing to read about Shakespeare without the hushed tone of literary sanctity, while preserving the rigors of good research...If Shakespeare makes some readers shudder with memories of high school textual surgery, the author is an approachable guide to the story behind the poetry and its many editions.”

Bookviews blog, August 2009
“A very interesting story.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 9/9 “A breathtaking account of the Sonnets...Heylin offers a stunning look at a literary mystery...They may be some of the greatest love poems of all time, but within the pages of Heylin’s latest exploration readers have the opportunity to learn that the Sonnets themselves are only the beginning of the story.”

Choice, October 2009 issue
“Offers a tantalizing examination of the role of the Stationers’ Company and the perils of copyright ownership in the 17th century...An interesting review of the publication history of Sonnets, from early private circulation of the poems to the present century.”

Magill Book Review, October 2009
“A fascinating, scholarly and thorough history of Shakespeare’s sonnets from 1590 to 2009. Nothing ever written about William Shakespeare and his works is without controversy; nor will this volume escape controversy. Clinton Heylin has taken on one of the most controversial subjects in this stellar, painstaking book."

Reference and Research Book News, November 2009
“This new angle on the sonnets and the background to their publication is intriguing and worth including in any Shakespeare library.”

Midwest Book Review
“Highly entertaining, educational, and recommended reading.”

History magazine, Feb/March 2010
“Reveals the untold story of some of the most famous poems in English.”

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