Will Paperback – 5 Aug 2009
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Masterful a lifetime s engagement with Shakespeare s words informs every page. James Shapiro, author of "1599"
Part literary genesis, part historical thriller This ravenous soliloquy fairly bursts with life. "Publishers Weekly"
Christopher Rush boldly takes us where no man has gone for 400 years. "New York Post"
A richly poetic novel. . . linguistically witty and imaginative. "Times Literary Supplement"
?Masterful?a lifetime's engagement with Shakespeare's words informs every page.? ?James Shapiro, author of "1599"
?Part literary genesis, part historical thriller? This ravenous soliloquy fairly bursts with life.? ?"Publishers Weekly"
?Christopher Rush boldly takes us where no man has gone for 400 years.? ?"New York Post"
?A richly poetic novel. . . linguistically witty and imaginative. "Times Literary Supplement"
About the Author
Christopher Rush is the author of twelve critically acclaimed works of fiction, memoir, and poetry, including A Twelvemonth and a Day, Venus Peter, and Hellfire and Herring. He taught Shakespeare for thirty years.
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Rush casts a clever eye on the political, social and religious aspects of Elizabethan and Jacobean England, investing with freshness the familiar episodes and documents of Shakespeare's life. The prose is larded with quotes from Shakespeare and others), all done with a purpose.
The whole camaraderie of the Globe Theatre is beautifully etched, with wondrous detail on their co-ownership of the Globe and their bequests to each other. Also the Christopher Marlowe episode and the accession of James I.
Teeth-gnashingly, women don't seem to have minds of their own in the book. Anne Hathaway is presented as Shakespeare's first lust; Shakespeare has a fictional affair with Jacqueline Vautrollier; and his wretched encounters with Emilia Bassano (the "Dark Lady") are best forgotten. The fictional Alison shows her gratitude for Shakespeare's gift of cash by partially stripping for him. It's an unlikely scenario. Even the Bard is astonished.
Of the last plays, we learn: "The girl-heroines are re-inventions of Hamnet [Shakespeare's dead son], of Edmund [Shakespeare's dead brother]. Over and over your author is asking a dead boy to forgive him for letting him die." So that's it, then. The girls are actually boys.
I found this a perplexing read. And yet, for its originality and poetry, its notable research and illumination, I recommend it.
In a strange way also, it's slightly easier to read if you try to forget it's supposed to be a novel at all, and take it as a long - very long! - prose poem. Slightly easier anyway. It would definitely be interesting to see what Rush's poetry is like. I must also admit that the man Shakespeare as portrayed here rapidly became very wearisome and my sympathies were for those poor unfortunates he rubbed up against, such as Anne Hathaway and the long-suffering lawyer (just let the poor man eat his pie without carping on about it, for goodness sake!).
So, as I imagine the real Shakespeare must have been quite fascinating, I suppose in making me dislike him, Rush must at least be performing some kind of literary miracle. In a negative way. That said, the historical details are very vibrant and obviously well researched. Perhaps it would be better rewritten as a non-fiction study of the age? And it certainly needs an editor who's not afraid to cut - it outstays its welcome hugely in terms of length. So, a brave attempt at something different by an author who can obviously write (but needs much much tighter control), but in the end a magnificent failure, I fear.