- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (July 8, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0446508853
- ISBN-13: 978-0446508858
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare Hardcover – July 8, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The two narratives in Winfield's whimsical debut are unified by their shared irreverence, humor and literary gusto. The first tale is of Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a grad student trying to prove in his hastily conceived thesis that Shakespeare was a closeted Catholic. Short on cash, stoner Willie agrees to mule a superpsychedelic mushroom and a pound of weed to a couple of Renaissance Faire enthusiasts, all the while nursing his infatuation with Dashka Demitra, his sexy thesis adviser. Willie's journey is interspersed with accounts of the other Shakespeare as he, in the months leading up to his wedding, has run-ins with hallucinatory substances and comely women while delivering a secret package to a Catholic dissident. Willie's a lovable schlemiel whose clumsy strides toward attaining a genuine understanding of Shakespeare's work mirror in many ways the Bard's quest to become the great playwright we now study. Winfield uses his deep understanding of Shakespeare's work and times (he is a founding member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company) to great effect, and his affection for the material shines throughout. (July)
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Winfield, cofounder of the comedy troupe Reduced Shakespeare Company, brings an intimate knowledge of the Bard as well as an infectious sense of humor to this witty first novel. In a dual narrative, we follow both Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a perpetually stoned graduate student, and the young playwright himself as he tentatively feels his way toward his destiny. Having spent the past two years struggling to come up with a master’s thesis in his Shakespeare studies, Willie finds himself desperately short of cash when his father cuts off his funding. He impulsively agrees to deliver drugs, including a gigantic psychedelic mushroom, to a buyer at the Renaissance Faire, traveling to the site with his latest infatuation, a sexy fellow grad student. Meanwhile, 18-year-old William, fond of wordplay and even fonder of women, agrees to deliver a package to an oppressed Catholic firebrand. Each story mirrors the other as the two young men gradually grow wiser about both the ways of the world and their own emotional shortcomings. Bawdy puns, a clever construction, and a deliciously irreverent sense of humor make this debut novel irresistible. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Shakespeare's story is interspersed with the story of Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a Master's student working on his thesis on Shakespeare and also discovering who he is. In parallel fashion, adroitly handled, both the historical and contemporary Shakespeares find themselves and get their lives going. I think this is one of the key narrative challenges of the piece -- making these parallel stories complement each other -- but it is adroitly handled and I would not want to give up the contemporary reflection of Shakespeare.
So...fun on many levels. The story of Elizabethan intrigue was very compelling and could have been a book in itself. The self-discovery of the lead characters was very well handled, making it a more personal and three-dimensional story. Winfield, who co-created and acted in the Reduced Shakespeare Company, has a flawless ear for Elizabethan language and punnery without which the book would not have worked; as it is, it does all come out perfectly, which greatly adds to the realism and charm of the work.
I recommend My Name Is Will to anyone who wants a little escapism, a bit of intrigue, a new look at Shakespeare and a lot of romance this summer.
The novel's two main protagonists have their stories told in alternating chapters, and the switching point of view is easy to follow. The chapters that focus on the real Shakespeare start with a short paragraph on the history or context. Chapters with the modern Will start with a quote from one of the real Shakespeare's works. It is a nice touch. The text has a nice progression and pace that culminates in a defining moment for both of its Wills. The main strength of the novel, and the point that I think Mr. Winfield tried so valiantly to make, is that Shakespeare's characters are so human, because he was! It seems an obvious point, but in today's world of Bard idolatry, people forget that Shakespeare was indeed one of us. This point is cleverly presented in a very understated manner by creating the device of the modern Will Shakespeare, and his process of maturation and finding life's purpose. What reader cannot see themselves in that device? Again, the connection of Shakespeare as one of us, who simply put into divine poetry what human experience is like, is made! This parallel plot device further highlights the more interesting tale (in my opinion) of the real Shakespeare's same process. With the parallel so spelled out for the reader, one has to be dense to not see the larger point.
Although quite funny, the novel also has some serious points to make and in Chapter 36 some surprisingly thoughtful ideas are presented about the role of religion and faith in our lives. There is something to chew on in this text.
Winfield also rewards those who are familiar with the Bard and his work by throwing in many allusions, lines, and references from Shakespeare's works and the point again is made that Shakespeare's art was probably a reflection of his life and experiences. Again, as it is for all of us.
Funny, interesting, witty, and thought provoking. Not bad at all! A worthwhile read.