Of what do we write when we write of love? In Bob Smith's case, it is Shakespeare's poems and plays. Hamlet's Dresser braids two strands of his life into a modest, heartbreaking, and soaringly affirmative memoir. A bookish, lonely child, his crush on the Bard's work became love when, as an alienated teenager, he joined the American Shakespeare Theatre as Hamlet's dresser. In time he would dress other characters, perform in small roles, become a coach and a watcher, and eventually lead senior citizens' groups in Shakespeare-appreciation courses. But this ecstatic marriage was haunted by his sad, contorted childhood: an increasingly dysfunctional mother, a distant father, and Caroline, his profoundly retarded sister. "Art," he writes, "can be a brutal thing, not just some decoration placed over the truth, but the truth itself." Smith's prose is bluntly ineffable: a rundown theatre looks like "Miss Havisham's bride cake" and the first teacher who didn't like him was "Miss Shumaker. It was right after I stopped pleasing everybody." The book is thick with short passages from Shakespeare. Placed in perfect context, they leap from the pages, abrupt as panoramic pop-ups. --H. O'Billovich --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In this intimate, inspiring account, Smith concludes that words and ideas possess the ability to heal and transform a life no matter how dire and painful the circumstances, using his own difficult childhood and productive adulthood as proof. Here, the literary balm is the work of Shakespeare. The book opens with the death of one of the members of a group of seniors who gathered regularly in Manhattan to read the Bard's plays with Smith as their leader. Smith immediately shows his literary skill as he captures the humanity of his students. That sensitivity serves him well when he writes of his dysfunctional family (a traumatized mother, a distracted father and a disabled sister), revealing their shortcomings with clarity while seeking to understand his place in their lives and in the world. Smith adroitly assumes the role of observer and chronicler during his wry recollections of his topsy-turvy youth, while also examining how families can harm children emotionally with well-intended half-truths and neglect, as relatives make him feel he's somehow responsible for his sister's handicaps. Some of the most painful passages come during the unraveling of his mother's health while his father is at war, burdening young Smith further in caring for his increasingly troubled sister. Whether Smith is describing his alcoholic aunt, his spiteful grandmother or his aging students, his ability to juggle humor and pain never fails. Throughout this triumphant book, the shadow of Shakespeare looms, and Smith finds meaning in the plays to redeem his daily existence, eventually becoming Hamlet's dresser at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where he delights in the workings of theater and meeting Katharine Hepburn, Jessica Tandy and others. Veteran memoir readers will find this book absorbing, refreshing and touching.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Beautifully written unforgettabke memoir. Brilliant, touching, funny, haunting. A rare and treasured work.Published 12 months ago by Barbara Cohn Berman
Not only is the story fascinating, but this book is beautifully written, truly a piece of literature. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Denise Melsenti
A difficult life beautifully written by a talented caring person. There are no easy paths and the gift of sharing creativity very healing.Published 21 months ago by Linda Kazmierski
Love this book. I give it to all my graduating theater students to inspire them to keep theater as a par to their lives.Published on September 3, 2013 by Frank D. Shutts II
I was drawn in by the title of this book, but did not expect such a touching, tender story. This is a must read for anyone who loves Shakespeare. Read morePublished on June 9, 2013 by William M. Downs
I listened to this artistically rendered memoir while in my car, and wanted a second copy so I could hear what happened after the car stopped. Well-read, well-written. Read morePublished on February 6, 2012 by Professional Psychic
HDAM is a beautifully written and very moving memoir. It richly deserves the praise it has received from reviewers. Read morePublished on April 20, 2009 by Librum
Hamlet's Dresser by Bob Smith
`Zoe died.' Just those two simple words. And from there on you are hooked. Read more