- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Me and Shakespeare: Life-Changing Adventures with the Bard Hardcover – 1 Jun 2002
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
HERMAN GOLLOB is a graduate of Texas A&M University. After serving in the U.S. Air Force in Korea, he worked as a theatrical agent for the MCA Artists Agency and a literary agent for the William Morris Agency before finding his calling as an editor with Little, Brown. He has been editor in chief of Atheneum, Harpers Magazine Press, the Literary Guild, and Doubleday, and a senior editor at Simon & Schuster. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife, Barbara, and teaches Shakespeare at the Lifelong Learning Institute of Caldwell College.
|5 star (0%)|
|4 star (0%)|
|3 star (0%)|
|2 star (0%)|
|1 star (0%)|
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Where the late-arriving teacher falls a bit short, not as a teacher but a critic, is in his over-reliance on the "Western eye" (Camille Paglia's term for an Apollonian heroic perspective). Hotspur, he tells us, is his favorite character in Henry IV,Pt.1, and moreover the play's great hero whereas Falstaff is a gross, cowardly drunk with little to no redeeming qualities. Much of his evidence is based not on the language of the world's first great existentialist thinker but on the portly character's physical actions on stage (hauling Hotspur's corpse offstage). What would we think, the author asks, if Falstaff carried on this way at the Viet Nam War Memorial? Gratuitously, the author tells us that his enthralled elderhostel students agreed with him (sadly, I must report that college students these days are equally unimpressed by Falstaff).
So in the final analysis we do need Harold Bloom, not only to affirm my first love affair with a Shakespeare character, but to remind us of why Falstaff is so much bigger than either his own girth or the arms of modern-day critics who try to put him in his place (he's far too protean and multi-dimensional for that). We certainly don't need any more war-hungry, anachronistic "heroes" like Coppola's Captain Kilgore, getting their highs from the smell of napalm and honor-sanctioned blood lust. A close reading of Shakespeare reveals that, even in Henry V, he's not about to swallow a shining lie, however bright.
While Gollub is able to convey his enthusiasm fir the Bard, he also gets bogged down in a lot of nit picking critique of the plays. He also drops a lot of celebrity names --Frank Sinatra makes a brief appearance, as do most of the American Writers of the 20th Century--though he also mentions some writers I was moved to discover on his recommendations.
Nonetheless, I found ME AND SHAKESPEARE moderately engaging, in part because I had just finished reading Shakespeare's plays, a project undertaken in my own retirement. Gollob, though, devoted himself to Shakespeare much more thoroughly and single-mindedly than simply reading the plays. He reports on reading not only the plays but also secondary literature about them and about staging/performing them. He goes to performances in person and watches them on film; he spends two days at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., enhanced by special access to the reading rooms; he takes an intensive three-week course at Oxford; he attends a performance of "Hamlet" at the Globe Theater in London; he interviews a number of accomplished people -- actors, directors, producers, acting coaches -- from the world of Shakespearean theater; and he himself teaches several courses on Shakespeare's plays in an adult education program at Caldwell College in New Jersey. That synopsis might sound rather boring, and with many authors it surely would be, but Gollob relates his adventures with the Bard with considerable panache.
I would have profited from his adult education courses (in particular, with regard to the plays "Titus Andronicus" and "Troilus and Cressida"). As it was, I learned a fair amount from the book. Gollob persuades me that one of the principal dichotomies of Shakespeare is the conflict between heart and mind (or intellect), and that for Shakespeare much of the evil in the world is perpetrated by those who develop the intellect at the expense of the heart, those who are too rational. Perhaps even more informative for me than Gollob's takes on Shakespeare interpretation were his discussions on Shakespeare performance. I now will have to view some of the DVDs mentioned in it.
I also enjoyed some of Gollob's stories from his publishing career -- especially anecdotes about interactions with figures of note such as Dan Jenkins, Willie Morris, Donald Barthelme, Orson Welles, and Lee Marvin (Gollob served as editor for the first three). But for the most part, I only tolerated (as opposed to enjoyed) the considerable parts of the book that do not deal with Shakespeare -- especially the extended portraits of Gollob's parents and the story of his relationship with Judaism, a story so tightly interwoven into this book that it is the weft to the warp of Shakespeare.