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My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare

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My Name Is Will cover 

   William Shakespeare and Co. may want to consider the nunnery themselves.  Jess Winfield has fun with the Bard’s life story in My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare.

My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare
Jess Winfield
2008
Twelve

   Jess Winfield can boast of having written top-quality material that is teeming with bad behavior and totally inappropriate for children. But what has he been up to since his days at Disney? Winfield, a founding member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, left the Mouse behind to pen My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare. This debut work is a tempest of vices and villains, with more lewd laughs than you can shake a spear at.

 
   The story revolves around two whoring, hallucinating, horny William Shakespeares: William Shakespeare Greenberg, professional student, bums and buggers his way around southern California during 1980’s, while four centuries earlier, “the” William Shakespeare spends his pre-barding days screwing up, and around, and just about everybody in sight. Their lives (and lifestyles) are eerily similar, even seeming to merge at times. The two Williams face persecution by Protestants and Republicans, while Queen Elizabeth’s spies and a Regan-era DEA provide the paranoia (which is no doubt bolstered by the potables they both have a taste for). Each of the ’spears has personal obstacles to overcome, and each will have to call upon his wits – and some ‘shrooms – in order to face them.
   My Name is Will is a witty, generally lighthearted romp through history. Two intertwining story lines prove more interesting than one, and the hallucination- and dream scenes that Winfield uses as a way of connecting the two Wills are truly clever. The novel is an engaging introduction to the Shakespeare story for those not acquainted, while Bard enthusiasts should enjoy the fun Mr. Winfield has had with the facts. The language is kept modern enough to allow for a quick pace and keep the dialogue clear and flowing.

   One of the novel’s strong points is its potential for striking up a good conversation. It is studded with seeds for discussion which may appeal particularly to younger people: Seeing (the) William Shakespeare as a flawed teenager makes the esteemed literary figure seem approachable and accessible; the novel is an introduction to Shakespeare as a human as well as his life’s story. Some heavier, more universal topics appear in the story’s details (notably in Willie Greenberg’s dysfunctional family situation), while Jess Winfield’s slam at New Criticism will likely be met with more than a few approving nods by those who have ever found themselves frustrated or bewildered by the concept.

   With so much to appeal to young people, exactly how young an audience is My Name is Will appropriate for? Keep in mind: While Jess Winfield is a former Disney writer, and the novel does stand to teach a fact or two, the author is not targeting teens: Unsure parents will want to read first and decide whether or not they want Winfield to teach their child a history lesson (and explain exactly what it is that witches really do with broomsticks). My Name is Will will be at home on college campuses – as comfortably as McCarthy-era pizza boxes and petrified macaroni and cheese remains. Its frank, modern telling is a lively supplement to all that stuffy, required Shakespeare reading.

   So, you adults out there: By all means, pick up a copy for yourselves. Perhaps a pizza, too. With mushrooms…


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