Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

This novel sits on my fence. To be a good novel, or not to be. That is the question.

Winfield has crafted a novel about a masters student, at UC Santa Cruz, who is more interested in drugs and sex than writing his thesis. His life is set on a path by the fact that his name is William Shakespeare–and his master’s thesis is about, guess who, Shakespeare. While Willie moves closer to completing his thesis, his life is paralleled by that of the historic Shakespeare. Winfield brings Shakespeare’s youth and accidental impregnation of Anne Hathaway to life and makes a case for Shakespeare practicing Catholicism during a time when papists were being hung, drawn, and quartered by the Queen of England.

I think the parallel structure of the novel is clever, and the imagination of Shakespeare’s youth was well drawn up. I particularly loved the inclusion of many Shake’s quotes in a relevant and illuminating manner. This novel also shed to light the political situations that Shakespeare would have grown up feeling oppressed or frustrated with.

My issues with the book come from another area. First, the descriptions are flowery. Rarely do I find myself skimming sentences, but it became so bad at points that I even skimmed whole paragraphs. Winfield isn’t verbose, but his first novel includes many details and scenes that do not add to the texture of the story. The long winded scene at Berkeley Campus, for example, felt as though it were merely telling us what it was like to be a student at Cal. The experience could have been cut down to one or two pages, but instead it sucked up page after page telling us about picketing, people shouting absurd chants, and tabling for myriad causes. While these are all a part of Berkeley culture, it was primarily irrelevant to the novel.

“My Name is Will” is Winfield’s first novel, and it was well enough crafted to ensure that he will continue to write, and be read. As I said at the beginning of this post, I can’t recommend this novel, but I also can’t condemn it. Read it yourself, and tell me what you think.

Jess Winfield’s website

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This novel was a delightful read. Michael Gruber has a talent for vivid and precise language. The novel is an action packed mystery in which the characters stumble upon evidence that appears to point to the existence of an additional, unknown, Shakespeare play. Gruber manages to entwine romance (or at least sexual desire for the female as a mythical object), deception, the mafia, literature, screenwriting, manuscripts, and cryptography.

I read this book while on a camping trip, and the only problem was that I didn’t have enough time to read the novel from cover to cover in one sitting, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

The book isn’t fast paced. We meet the two main characters through first person narrative and because of this we get to learn their deepest feelings that would never be spoken out loud. But this internal experience of the characters leads us on many tangents that not only help to develop the characters, but also develop the plot. Even though it may feel like the novel is tangential, every idea and thought conveyed works to build up to the final moments of the novel.

This was an excellent read. While I couldn’t wait to get to find out what happened, I enjoyed every page in my journey to the end. This is a novel that will remain fresh in my mind for years to come.

Michael Gruber’s website: http://www.michaelgruberbooks.com/