One Book/One New Paltz 2022 will tackle Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed

One Book, One With this year’s selections by new Paltz committee members Linda Welles and Myra Sorin, Hag-seed By Margaret Atwood. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

A local tradition since 2005, One Book/One New Paltz will be back this November, and if you’re thinking you might like to participate, here’s your chance to get your hands on this year’s select group. “We didn’t do that last year,” says OB/ONP committee member Linda Welles. “Last year it was completely virtual.”

Like many cultural organizations to keep services and activities alive during the pandemic, this group of volunteers, working under the joint auspices of SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center and Elting Memorial Library, picked up some new tech tricks. Gadgets that will continue to be useful in the future. One Book 2022, Kanopy, will use a combination of films streamed through live meetings and virtual discussions; Some events will be hybrids. That means more people can attend during OB/ONP week (November 13 to 19), including people who are homebound to attend in person.

Selecting Book of the Year is usually a difficult process, with committee members lobbying hard for favorite authors or works; But there are agreed upon guidelines, including a page limit. Organizers want to ensure that participants have enough time to read one book after finding a copy. Inquiring Minds bookstore in New Paltz should have a good supply on hand, offering a 15 percent price discount; Barner Books, a former partner, currently uses only stock books. Elting Library downtown and the Sojourner Truth Library on campus have a few copies, but your best bet may be an interlibrary loan, which is “quick,” according to committee member Myra Sorin.

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For this year’s offering, the committee was interested in selecting a title from the Hogarth Shakespeare series: a project initiated by Hogarth Press (now an imprint of Penguin Random House) that commissions famous authors to retell the Bard’s plays in novel form in contemporary settings. with the The Handmaid’s Tale Much in the public consciousness these days due to the US Supreme Court overturning the decision Roe v. WadeIt made perfect sense to choose Hag-seed (2016), Reimagining Margaret Atwood a storm. Much of the play’s action takes place in a men’s correctional facility, which was particularly appropriate for readers in New Paltz: as Wells notes, “there are more prisons than usual in this area.”

Widely regarded as Shakespeare’s farewell to playwriting. a storm It tells the story of Prospero, a duke deposed in a coup (also a politically timely topic) and exiled to a desert island with his three-year-old daughter Miranda. The story picks up 12 years later, after Prospero – also a powerful sorcerer – discovers his enemies sailing nearby and causes a storm to crash their ship onto his island. A budding romance between Miranda and the son of one of his rivals distracts Prospero from his initial quest for revenge. There are also comic characters and some magical characters: the sprite Ariel and the “hag-seed” monster Caliban, both of whom are held captive by the exiled duke until his schemes ripen.

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Atwood’s most famous works are dystopian fantasy, Hag-seed It’s set in modern day Canada and actually has less fantastical elements than the drama it inspired. The main character, Felix, a theater festival director fired by his colleagues, has conversations with his dead daughter, Miranda, but she is more of an imaginary friend than a spirit. Angry and humiliated, Felix lies in a rustic hut, teaching English literature courses to prison inmates under an assumed name and dreaming of revenge on the administrators who stole his job and rose to stardom professionally and politically.

The ex-director’s Shakespeare class, which allows convicts to adapt the bard’s lofty language into street language, perform plays and record them on video, becomes such a successful model in the prison system that Felix’s old enemies don’t even know who he is. Of course, deciding to make an official visit – thereby giving them a chance to receive his mercy. “He uses the prison drama to get revenge on these two men who ruined his life,” Wells explains. “But the story is more about how putting on Shakespeare’s plays affected the prisoners and the relationships between the prisoners.”

Part of this year’s OB/ONP program is a selection of filmed versions a storm, or films inspired by it, can be borrowed from participating libraries, some through Kanopy and some on DVD. (You’ll need a Mid-Hudson Library System card to get Elting or SUNY New Paltz borrowing privileges to access them through Sojourner Truth.) There will be live screenings of two films, followed by facilitated group discussions: Julie Taymor’s 2010 opus the stormStarring Helen Mirren as Prospera and Shakespeare Behind Bars (2005) is a documentary about an actual production a storm Committed by inmates at the Luther Luckett Correctional Facility in Louisville, Kentucky. The other two films in OB/ONP are by Paul Mazursky the storm (1982) and Derek German’s a storm (1979)

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One Book Week begins with its traditional community book discussion and brunch hosted by Rabbi Emeritus Bill Strongin of the Jewish Congregation of New Paltz. Other scheduled events include this year’s Academic Panel featuring SUNY New Paltz professors Cyrus Mulready (English), Jerry Persaud (Digital Media & Journalism, Latin & Caribbean Studies) and Anne Roschelle (Sociology). “The Academic Panel is always my favorite part of One Book, where people from different disciplines discuss the book through a lens unique to their field,” says Wells.

Additional scholarly presentations include one focused on Aimé Césaire a storm, an adaptation that makes Caliban the protagonist and deconstructs the story as a meditation on colonialism; A discussion on “Playing in Prisons / Prisons in Drama”; and another that provides an overview of adaptations a storm throughout the centuries, including contemporary versions aimed at children and teenagers.

To view the full schedule, including locations for live events and access zoom discussions or links to download movies, visit

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