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Branagh Does Monarch Notes

By Francis Levy

    I was a peculiar young man. People thought there was something wrong with me, and a lot of parents from our local school didn’t appreciate it when I hung out with their kids. I really didn’t like the same things as other kids.

    I wasn’t the first outsider who dreamt of being a writer. However, I didn’t want to be the next Hemingway or Fitzgerald. I had no fantasies about being great and showing all those parents and kids who wanted to spurn me back then that they were wrong. Not me.

    I dreamt of being one of the people who wrote the summaries of novels and plays that we bought at exam time. I idealized the writers of Monarch Notes. If there were CliffsNotes, I wanted to have my name attached to the synopsis of a classic.

    On lonely Saturday afternoons when the other boys in our neighborhood were playing touch football, I dreamt of writing the summary of Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy. Hamlet muses about whether it is better to exist or not. Dying, sleeping, and dreaming are all offered as alternatives. But no conclusion is reached during the soliloquy.

    Richard III was another Shakespearean character I was intrigued by. Richard asks if a horse is available and subsequently offers up his worldly possessions in payment for the animal was my succinct précis of the famed “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” speech.

    Everyone is dealt a different hand. You get what you get, as the expression goes, and as it turned out I never got to be one of the authors of a work like the Monarch “Henry IV, Part 1.” Part of becoming an adult involves accommodating reality and learning to go after the possible. You might have been in love with Marilyn Monroe, but you were more likely to end up with Emily Monroe.

    Actually, Emily happened to be captain of the girls field hockey team in college, and while I thought I was lowering the bar in going after her, she had a different perception of her position on the food chain and roundly rejected my advances. This was my first experience of lowering my sights and then having them lowered again.

    Anyway, it’s a long story, but being unhappily married and divorced, I just lived with someone for many years. Recently she told me she couldn’t take it anymore. She informed me she was leaving me for someone else. I tried to explain to her the statistics that most divorced people end up marrying the same person again. But her only response was that it was a good thing we never got married.

    But getting back to my childhood dreams. After being turned down by the companies that produce Cliff, Spark, and Monarch Notes, I tried to raise money from my family and friends to start my own venture. I even opened a Kickstarter account, but the idea of a publishing firm devoted to producing synopses of classic works didn’t seem to fire anyone’s imagination — at least not with me at the helm. So I lowered my sights again and decided to sell the whole concept to Hollywood.

    What about Kenneth Branagh in the Monarch “Richard III”? I would go to the publisher and buy the dramatic rights to the summary of the Shakespearean action. I was sure no one had ever done this before, and I figured I’d finally come up with a realistic plan by which I could attain success in life. Maybe I wouldn’t be the writer of a great Shakespearean summary, but at least I would have the vicarious thrill of shepherding one to the screen.

    As of this writing all the major studios have passed on this project, but there are many blockbuster films that are taken up by independents after the major studios turn them down. And speaking of realism and lowering the bar, I think this is a realistic outcome for my project. I may not end up satisfying my childhood dreams, but I’ll be rich.

    Francis Levy, a Wainscott resident, is the author of the comic novels “Erotomania: A Romance” and “Seven Days in Rio.” He blogs at and on The Huffington Post.

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