Living With Shakespeare
edited by Susannah Carson
A 2013 Vintage Original release
from Random House. 493 pages.
A very long time ago, my parents collaborated to make to me a gift of a beautiful book that my father originally acquired in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1928. “The Complete Dramatic and, Poetic Works of William Shakespeare,” was compiled and discussed by Professor Frederick D. Losey of Harvard. The book was published in 1926 by The John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia and Chicago. It is a beautiful leather-bound volume of thin gilt-edged pages. The book survived our travails in Goodwell, Oklahoma, between 1930 and 1938. I treasure and refer to it often. And I had the great good fortune to perform a minor part in a community theater production of “Othello,” a good many years ago.
And now there is a companion book, about which, I cannot say enough good things. “Living With Shakespeare,” is a series of essays from a wide array of writers, directors and others about their lives with this astounding writer’s works. Some are funny, some of them are irreverent. Some will engender disagreement and all will add to our understanding of the greatest writer in the English language. Ask yourself; how it is that 400 years after he lived, his plays are being re-interpreted, his sonnets sung, his insights helping us to better understand ourselves?
The book is smoothly organized with a few fine photographs scattered throughout the thirty-eight original essays from the likes of Jane Smiley, Joyce Carol Oates, Isabel Allende, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley and James Earl Jones. Readers should not neglect to read the excellent introduction by Susannah Carson. Bravo to all the aforementioned individuals, as well as those who produced this handsome volume. Readers should not pass by Harold Bloom’s precise and pointed Foreword that echoes the question so often asked in literature classes, “Why Shakespeare?” And the answer comes still, after four hundred years. “Who else is there?” Who else, indeed.