I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
-William Shakespeare, Sonnet XXIX
Cambridge, November 1996
Evy Luton has a routine every night before she goes to sleep. When Mummy says it's time, Evy goes to the room that she shares with baby Jo, puts on her pyjamas, and puts her day's clothes away (in and not on top of the hamper). She goes into the bathroom, puts just enough toothpaste on her toothbrush, and brushes her teeth until her arm starts to get tired. Then she goes back into the bedroom and climbs into her father's lap on the rocking chair that creaks when baby Jo joins them. Then Daddy opens the book of sonnets and reads to them.
Evy likes to close her eyes and listen. She never hears his accent except now, when he's in his own world, reading to his girls. She doesn't understand a word of it, but closes her eyes and listens to Daddy's voice soothe her to sleep.
One night, Evy screws up her courage and volunteers to read before Daddy asks her to. She'd taken down the weighty book earlier in the day - nearly dropping it - and practiced for an hour, eager to please but even more eager to make it seem natural. But it's of no use. Baby Jo is younger, but she's a better reader, or at least she pretends to be. She can't fool Evy: she's memorized ity. But Daddy loves it. He laughs and smiles when she comes to certain lines. Some nights the smile stays even after she's done, when he's tucking them in.
Daddy doesn't smile when Evy reads. He watches the page, his gaze steady (much steadier than her voice), not moving even when she pauses to glance up at him.
Heathrow Airport, June 1999
I might not be there to enjoy these sonnets with you every night, but read them regularly. They'll give you a world-class emotional education and teach you all you need to know.
New York, January 2000
In Dad's new house in New York, they don't read like they used to.
Princeton, February 2007
She's traveled three thousand, five hundred and seven miles, is an honored guest of the guest of honor, and no one will serve her a goddamned drink. "This is the problem with America," she tells her sister, who shrugs and slinks off at the first chance she gets to oggle some Ivy League boys. Jo's not as sympathetic: while the injustice of being of legal age in London but not at this party in New Jersey isn't lost on her, she still relies on Eva to bring her White Lightning at home too. Eva's had to call out of Tesco to attend another dinner for her father and here she is, all dressed up at a snooty conference function, sober, and with no place to go: the least impressive child of a very impressive alumni.
But suddenly, it doesn't seem so bad.
His eyes spark when he sees her - she can tell even from this distance - and he sets off toward her. It's like a movie as he glides across the room: black and orange striped tie perfectly tied, hair perfectly disshevled, smile perfectly American. He even grabs a flute of champagne as he walks toward her, which he discreetly places in her hand when he stops to stand beside her.
"You're Dr. Luton's daughter, aren't you? I adored his article on Pericles."
Her eyes go blank. Thank fuck for the champagne.
He doesn't seem to notice, but keeps going. "Have you read it?"
"Pericles?" she asks, raising her eyebrow. Of course she has.
He laughs and she does too. Of course she hasn't. This isn't her world. He'll learn that soon enough.
London, June 2011
The Sonnets of William Shakespeare
and Literary History
Winston H. Luton, Ph.D.
Silver Professor of Literature
New York University
Cambridge University Press
To Evy, Jo, Jack, and Freddie,
Shakespeare scholars from birth,
whether they liked it or not
New York, May 2015
Eva promised that she would never get rid of that apartment: it was rent controlled, close to Washington Square Park, and around the corner from Greenwich Village's greatest Thai take-out. She promised, but here she is, packing all her things in boxes. As she sits, surrounded by all the artifacts of the past years, she remembers standing in it when she first purchased it and wondering what sort of life she would live within these empty rooms. In the years since there had only been a part-time life lived here, a week here or two days there as she jogged back and forth across the globe, perfectly content to never settle in one place for long enough to feel those roots begin to grow.
Even now, as she revels in settling down, it's not here. They haven't spent much of their time in her flat aside from the days they hid out there until being walked in on - literally - by her sister (Eva jokes that everyone else's seen his bits by now, so Jo's just being dramatic). These rooms aren't nearly as impressive as the grandness he was born into and has matched with his own success, although he claims again and again that he enjoys them.
Now they sit on the floor in her little flat as she opens up her little world to him, packing each part bit by bit so that it can become part of their world. They listen to her records, she gushes about memories her clothes bring up, she plays him songs she'd written about him - this one about how untouchable he felt, this one about how good in bed he was, one about how she was definitely, certainly, absolutely over him - and she even shows him her paintings. Piece by piece, she opens them up to him and stores these new memories in her brain, wanting to remember these last moments before the big move-in and surrendering her keys to Jo. She smiles to herself as she shuffles away from him over to the last neglected bookcase and peels the first book off.
To Evy, she reads, and shuts the book.
Rio de Janeiro, February 2016
Dublin, March 2016
It was only a matter of time before Rufus Wainwright made an album of Shakespeare sonnets.
On April 22, Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets will be released featuring vocals from Carrie Fisher, Helena Bonham Carter, William Shatner and his sister, Martha.
You can get your first taste now and listen to Eva Luton, a living A Midsummer Night's Dream character, join Wainwright for "When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes (Sonnet 29)."
New York, April 2016
Winston Luton has a routine every time calls his eldest daughter. Two-and-a-half seconds after she picks up, he asks if she's busy. If she's not, he asks where she is. If he's been there, he asks if she's seen this or that. If she doesn't have a story to tell, he asks after people in her life in the same order: Daniel (still a relatively new addition, so sometimes left off the rotation at first), Lila, Isabella, the rest of the band. If everything's normal, he asks how she's feeling, and if she's been reading anything lately. When she says no - this part never changes - he laughs and tells her about a book he's sure she'll like that they both know she'll never pick up. And then, all boxes checked, he'll give her space to speak.
But when he calls after he hears the song, he doesn't hesitate to tell her that he loves her.
|Winston Luton |
|So proud of my daughter, @evaluton, for her masterful rendition of my favorite sonnet, XXIX. Well done, Evy. https://youtu.be/YHsF3hpYiZ8|
11:15 AM - 3 April 2016