Monday, September 18, 2017

On Shakespeare Addiction

SHAKESPEARE FOR BEGINNERS, which I'm proud to have written.


You're a writer. That's your job. So imagine something. Imagine, say, writing a stretch of dialogue so good that four hundred years on, people are not only still learning it, reading it, and producing it, but also spending inordinate amounts of their time and energy arguing about its relevance. 

Who pulls off that kind of imagining? The balding guy from Warwickshire, that's who. Not that he meant to achieve that when he was on deadline, but, inasmuch as he did ... how could you possibly write for a living and not want to emulate Shakespeare?

The cokehead mutters: Must be something good for me in this stuff I'm sniffing every day. No, but really, there must be. Herewith, my seven reasons I refuse to apologize for my four-decades-and-counting obsession with the Bard.

7. Bardoholism is good.  You say you need a little something to take the edge off the day? Open the Complete Works to a random page, scan it for a good line, and I promise you'll find a new best friend. ("For this relief, much thinks!") And unlike alcoholism, this obsession/coping strategy/addiction/whatever won't damage your kidneys.

6. You can steal from Shakespeare.  All the best writers do. And Shakespeare never seems to mind. (“The robb'd that smiles, steals something from the thief; He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.” ) Anyway -- well out of copyright. Have fun. Don't borrow, though. Steal. Make it your own.

5. He's not perfect, which would be far too intimidating. Plenty of dodgy, boring passages in Shakespeare. Whew. Said it right out loud there. We can all relax now. By the way: he'd be the first to admit this, I think. ("I humbly thank you, sir. A truth's a truth.")

4. You can go as deep or as shallow as you want. Dirty jokes? Got 'em. Meditations on destiny and the purpose of human existence? Got 'em. And everything in between. Paddle in the sand by the shore, or head on out to the deep waters, plunge in, and try to touch the bottom. Somehow I never get tired of either. ("And you may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking.")

3. If you have just one line you can quote confidently, people automatically assume you're really, really smart. This is, no kidding, an amazing thing, and I hope you get to experience it for yourself. The exhilaration you feel when this happens in a group is superior to any drug high.  The bit in the parentheses that comes next is a line that's particularly effective when there's an attorney in the group, and you're looking for a laugh line. ("The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.")

2. No matter how awful Trump ever gets, he can't change how satisfying Shakespeare is. We must learn to take our comforts where we find them in this world. ("Fear no more the frown o' the great; Thou art past the tyrant's stroke.")

1. Just about every writer you've ever admired fell in love with him, too. This means spending time with Shakespeare is a little bit like being invited to a special kind of soiree, one attended by all your favorite writers from history who aren't Shakespeare. You realize, before long, that you're constantly running into lines, themes, and observations that captured the attention of people whose work you've read and loved: Keats, Hugo, Shaw, Dickens,  Hemingway, Byatt, Atwood, Morrison, and on and on. Quite an event. Enjoy. ("How now shall this be compassed? Canst thou bring me to the party?") Absolutely, Will. Come on in. The theme of this party is: imagine.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

On the Bard's 453rd Birthday, Take the Shakespeare Trivia Quiz

To celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, see how high you score on my SHAKESPEARE TRIVIA TEST. Answers Monday.

What actor originated the role of Macbeth?

Was KING LEAR originally presented to audiences as a tragedy or a history?

What comic actor left Shakespeare's company around 1599 and concocted a publicity stunt involving dancing?

Which two actors in Shakespeare's company oversaw the publication of his plays in 1623?

How old was Shakespeare when he married Anne Hathaway?

What do we know with certainty happened to Shakespeare between 1585 and 1592?

What "university wit" attacked Shakespeare in print, calling him an "upstart crow"?

What theater did Shakespeare's company build on the south bank of the Thames in 1599?

Who is the protagonist of the Shakespeare play JULIUS CAESAR?

What is the shortest play attributed to Shakespeare?

How do we know for certain that April 23 really is Shakespeare's birthday?

Bonus question: Who wrote this book?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Working on the new novel

That, plus a bout of post-election depression, explains the silence here since December.

The novel is helping with my mood.