“Why ya gotta be a scrub-ass Montague?”

February 15, 2017

So, the greatest act of self-care I have indulged in since this year started is listening to Thug Notes: A Street-Smart Guide to Classic Literature by Sparky Sweets, Ph.D.

Thug Notes by Sparky Sweets

In case you’re not familiar with the greatness that is Thug Notes, here is a brief intro, using a story we’re all familiar with:

Isn’t it amazing? IT IS AMAZING. And the best thing about the audiobook is that it covers Romeo & Juliet in even more depth. It is seriously a gift and a joy.

So, yes, listening to this was an act of self-care, and I highly recommend listening over reading. The book is written in slang, which is fine to listen to but frustrated me to read when I looked at the sample. I mean, sure I appreciate sentiments like this:

Get yo’ ass ready for some legit, accurate-as-hell breakdowns of summa literature’s dankest works.

But that doesn’t mean I want to read a whole book written that way. (And that is one of the easiest to read sentences in the excerpt. Can you say, “trying too hard”?)

Also, as you can tell from the clip, Greg Edwards (who plays Sparky and co-created Thug Notes) has a great voice, and he’s FUNNY. Every single time, he said, “Themes and shit!” I laughed. Every. Single. Time. He was just so excited about it.

I also enjoyed the remixes of lines from the story that were put into modern vernacular. Here’s a fun one from Romeo & Juliet:

Benvolio: Rosaline won’t put out?
Romeo: Word. Ain’t that some shit?

OMG, and the description of The Scarlet Letter as the most famous book about slut shaming? And how Queequeg and Ishmael shared a bed, so there must have been some harpooning going on and not just the whaling kind? I laughed. Out loud. While walking to/sitting at the bus stop.

I was also super happy about the books covered, especially A Raisin in the Sun and Invisible Man. I don’t know what I was expecting (I didn’t check the table of contents), but I wasn’t expecting that.

I love, love, love the way Edwards sees the character of Sparky:

“I always think he’s from South Central, East L.A., Boyle Heights, and just a regular dude who enjoys to read. He has a library card, he loves to read, and he talks to his friends… I look at Sparky just like LeVar Burton in a do-rag and saying slang.”

LeVar Burton in a do-rag. Magic.

And that description holds true. One of my favorite parts is in the intro when Sparky describes going to the library to check out a specific translation of The Brothers Karamazov and blowing the librarian’s mind because his looks and clothes don’t match what she expects him to be and say. Always a necessary commentary, unfortunately, but it works especially well here. Sparky may, as he says, rock a sag and do-rag, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t intelligent or doesn’t know exactly what he’s talking about.

Oh, and listening to this also made me want to finally, actually read The Lord of the Flies. Which! I just realized Lost is basically an adaptation of.

So yes. If you need something fun to listen to AND you love literature, I highly recommend the audio version of Thug Notes. Skip the written one unless you’re interested in reading something written entirely in street slang.




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  1. heather

    I hadn’t heard of this. I know what I’m doing tomorrow on my day off now.

  2. Katy K.

    I bought the print version for the library (it being in my official collection area), and it did make me laugh a lot while I was taking way too long making sure it had the right call number… but I think you’re right, an audio version would be much better!

  3. Elisabeth Ellington

    I love Thug Notes so much! I always share the videos with my college students when we’re reading something he covers. LeVar Burton in a do-rag is the best line ever.


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