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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.