I have been doing quite a lot of writing lately, so my apologies if I haven’t posted in a while. I was going through some of my USB sticks and found a review I wrote for my college newspaper. If you are wary to read any of Shakespeare’s work, the least you can do is start with “My Name is Will.” I promise it’s nothing like “Romeo & Juliet” and you won’t be “bored out of your mind,” like so many who don’t understand The Bard claim to be.
“My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex Drugs and Shakespeare” by Jess Winfield
Whoever said that William Shakespeare wasn’t for teenagers was clearly mistaken and should suffer a “murther most foul.” Well, maybe not that intense of a punishment but they should read Jess Winfield’s book, “My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare.” This 316-page story is most definitely a page-turner for any avid reader. Although there are many modern takes on Shakespeare, “My Name is Will” promises not to disappoint.
If any Shakespearean lover or hater thinks that Winfield’s novel is purely about the bard, think again. The author takes the modern-day character of Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a 25-year-old grad student at UC Santa Cruz and pairs him against the 18-year-old up and coming playwright of William Shakespeare himself. In William’s storyline, he is entrusted with a sacred relic from Rome, which he must deliver during a time when the only option in religion was choose or die. At the same time, William is forced into a marriage, tormented for his beliefs and the secret he is withholding and is in the process of writing some of the greatest plays in all of literature.
Centuries later, Willie appears, desperately wanting to finish his graduate thesis on Shakespeare. He becomes distracted by the beautiful Dashka Demitra, his stand-in advisor who further adds to the problems in Willie’s personal life. When his father cuts off his cash flow, Willie becomes involved in a plot to be a drug runner as a way to make some money. With six dollars in his pocket and an unfinished thesis at home, Willie goes on a journey to the Renaissance fair, his final destination to seal the deal.
The reader may be confused due to a series of constant flashbacks throughout the novel, which switches the points of view between the classic William Shakespeare and his modern-day counterpart Willie. However, this brilliant device further illustrates the similarities and intersections of both William and Willie’s lives and connects them in a very fluid movement of the text, proving that the two characters are more alike than they would have thought. Every chapter that discusses the playwright begins with an excerpt from one of his plays or sonnets. The same goes for the chapters involving Willie where the author chooses to refer to him only as “Willie” throughout the entire novel, keeping the distinction between the two Shakespeares identifiable.
Most appropriate for both males and females aged 18 and older, Winfield’s novel appeals to the truths of young adult life. From sex, pornographic language and issues with drugs while tripping off of shrooms to the beauty of making connections between Shakespeare’s past life and modern-day influence, the author makes the bard appealing to everyone. This novel gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look at the humorous side of Shakespeare. By highlighting the underlying tones that devoted Shakespeareans force themselves to over look, “My Name is Will” allows hardcore British literature buffs to relax and enjoy the ride. “My Name is Will” was published by Grand Central Publishing and is available for $24 in your local bookstore. Used and discounted copies are also available online.