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Hamlet's Dresser: A Memoir Paperback – February 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
It is not a book about Bob Smith's devotion to his sister, but his endeavor to escape the confines of his sister even though he loved her very much. The main aspect of the book was his intertwining of Shakespearian passages in describing his past life and his present life when he teaches the elderly the wonders of the Bard. This in itself really opens up so many facets of how he felt. He is the Hamlet of his life and his mother is Lady MacBeth with his sister being Ophelia.
Though his writing is rather florid at times, this is an amazing first book by Mr. Smith. Without the Shakespearian prose interspersed throughout the passages, it might have been just another memoir, but Mr. Smith has turned it into a book that flows. The reader can even start comparing aspects of their own life with Shakespeare just as the elderly do in his classes.
Read it and compare it with your own life.
I read it on the plane and, to my great embarrassment, found that I had to put the book down in my lap several times and take deep breaths, lest the other passengers see the tears welling in my eyes.
Bob Smith is a man I didn't know of before picking up the book. I didn't expect to care about his memoir. What I found is that I ended up caring very deeply and simply could not put it down until I'd finished it. To say that it is a moving book is an understatement. Somehow, Mr. Smith touches on all of life and love and loss and hope and well --- humanity. Perhaps it is because he weaves into his tale the timeless wisdom found in Shakespeare. And he does so masterfully.
By reading this memoir, you will learn about life, yourself, Shakespeare, and what it means to be human.
Central to Smith's narrative is his relationship with Carolyn, his profoundly disabled sister. Virtually incapable of speech, resistant to every attempt at toilet training, and prone to obsessive-compulsive behavior, her presence in the household takes a heavy toll on the other family members. Her mother retreats to the bedroom, her father mysteriously disappears every Tuesday and Bob, despite his great affection and concern, seeks solace in the library, museums, and the theater. As a fifth grader, he first encounters Shakespeare, whose eloquent language displaces the tense silence of his home. As he remarks: "Poetry became a beautiful place to hide from my life and my parents, a place I knew they'd never follow me to." (p. ll2)
The book's apt title relects Smith's initial involvement with an actual production when, as a sixteen year old, he becomes a dresser for the American Shakespeare Festival's "Hamlet." His fascination with the theater does not translate into serious aspirations as an actor. Rather, he elects to develop the stage management skills essential to the support of a successful production. As he admits in a brief backstage encounter with Katherine Hepburn, "I'm a watcher.Read more ›
The author�s skill with the elderly may be founded somehow in his childhood commitment to a beautiful but severely retarded younger sister to whom he is deeply attached. For different reasons his childhood is lonely and painful, but this only becomes clear very slowly. Gradually the reader perceives that the book is really about Smith�s complex relationship with his sister. At a climax point of harrowing detail he breaks off and to bring us back to an amusing habit of someone in his senior citizens� class, an actor preparing for a demanding scene, or fascinating details about (for example) Katharine Hepburn�s stage wardrobe. We see how the whole rich framework of the author�s life is determined by his love of acting, actors and the Shakespeare stage.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautifully written unforgettabke memoir. Brilliant, touching, funny, haunting. A rare and treasured work.Published 21 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 22 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 on November 15, 2013 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
I have listened to Bob Smith read this book several times. It is delightful, true and entertaining! I highly recommend this audiobook to all!Published on December 30, 2010 by Bigelle
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