Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pg. 69: Jess Winfield's "My Name Is Will"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield.

About the book, from the publisher:
A Tale of Two Shakespeares...

Struggling UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is trying to write his thesis about the Bard. Kind of...

Cut off by his father for laziness, and desperate for dough, Willie agrees to deliver a single, giant, psychedelic mushroom to a mysterious collector, making himself an unwitting target in Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs.

Meanwhile, would-be playwright (and oppressed Catholic) William Shakespeare is eighteen years old and stuck teaching Latin in the boondocks of Stratford-upon-Avon. The future Bard's life is turned upside down when a stranger entrusts him with a sacred relic from Rome . . . This, at a time when adherents of the "Old Faith" are being hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors.

Seemingly separated in time and place, the lives of Willie and William begin to intersect in curious ways, from harrowing encounters with the law (and a few ex-girlfriends) to dubious experiments with mind-altering substances. Their misadventures could be dismissed as youthful folly. But wise or foolish, the bold choices they make will shape not only the 'Shakespeare' each is destined to become ... but the very course of history itself.
Among the early praise for the novel:
"Utterly delicious, original, witty, hilarious and brilliant. Shakespeare in Love on magic mushrooms. The Bard has never been this much fun."
—Christopher Buckley, author of Boomsday and Thank You For Smoking

"Bawdy puns, a clever construction, and a deliciously irreverent sense of humor make this debut novel irresistible."

"The two narratives in Winfield’s whimsical debut are unified by their shared irreverence, humor and literary gusto."
Publishers Weekly

"Jess Winfield's My Name is Will cleverly twists two parallel plot lines — one set in California in the 1980s, the other in Stratford-upon-Avon in the 1580s — into a single bizarre adventure that'll have you questioning the Bard's religious history and rooting for a guy trying to deliver an enormous hunk of fungus to a mysterious buyer."
Austin Statesman 2008 Summer Reading Guide

"A mischievous, affecting picaresque with Tom Stoppard smarts and the caustic, risky wit of a Sam Lipsyte."
Publishers Weekly feature, 1/21/08

"MY NAME IS WILL fuses a witty campus novel, based on the narrator's hectic experience of the mythological University of California of the nineteen seventies and eighties, with a subversive historical one about the equally legendary Elizabethan era of the young Shakespeare, to create a provocative twin narrative, in which youths fight their way through a world of rampant sex and drugs to the beginnings of maturity. The narrative’s ingenious achievement is to suggest how, by saturation in the past, a youthful rebel in Elizabethan Stratford and one in modern Berserkeley can share comic misadventures, both paradoxically illuminating the historical Shakespeare family's inveterate Catholicism.”
—Hugh Richmond, Professor Emeritus of English, University of California, Berkeley
Read excerpts from My Name Is Will, and learn more about the book and author at Jess Winfield's website and blog.

Jess Winfield is a founding member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. He co-created the full-length show The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987 and became an international sensation. After leaving the RSC, Winfield spent ten years writing and producing award-winning cartoons for the Walt Disney Company.

The Page 69 Test: My Name Is Will.

--Marshal Zeringue