From Publishers Weekly
Acclaimed journalist Rosenbaum, New York Observer
columnist and cultural omnivore (Explaining Hitler
), conveys the impassioned arguments of leading directors and scholars concerning how Shakespeare should be printed and performed. "Hearing Sir Peter Hall pound his fists in fury over the vital importance of a pause at the close of a pentameter line, for instance—wonderful!" Rosenbaum enthuses. Elsewhere he recalls how seeing Peter Brook's definitive 1970 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
inspired Rosenbaum's "outsider's odyssey into the innermost citadels of scholarship" to investigate the painstaking work of Shakespearean textual experts as they convert the Bard's earliest published works into authoritative editions. Evoking the clashing methodologies and discourses of scholars, the dizzying depths of lexicographic databases and a rare instance of Shakespeare's voice transcribed in a court proceeding, Rosenbaum captures with clarity and wry humor the obsessive fervor, theoretical about-turns and occasional scholarly fiasco that characterize this arcane world. He considers the politics of portraying Shylock and Falstaff, appraises Shakespeare on film and provocatively comments on the work of such influential critics as Harold Bloom, Stephen Greenblatt and Stephen Booth. Balancing academic reportage with his own lively observations, Rosenbaum wrestles with the weightiest issues of Shakespeare studies in a down-to-earth manner that readers will applaud. (Sept. 26)
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Ron Rosenbaum, whose analysis in Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of Evil
(1998) was well received, is a journalist by trade and a Shakespeare enthusiast by calling. In The Shakespeare Wars
, the author articulates to a well-read lay audience his passion for the work and describes the internecine squabbling that often characterizes Shakespeare studies. In so doing, Rosenbaum comes up against a few obstacles, not the least his lengthy meditations on issues that may strike the reader as unworthy of the space devoted to them. Even the critics who admire the author's passion and his knowledge of the subject agree that the book is longer than it needs to be. If you are as captivated by Shakespeare as the author, however, join a kindred spirit in celebrating the Bard.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.