Littered with pervasive wit and sometimes coarsely sophomoric buffoonery, My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare quickly sucks you in to a story of two Wills, one from 1852 and one from 1986. The two of them embark on similar celebrations of sex, drugs, and a discovery of who Will is that will entertain many and likely offend a few.
At the opening, Winfield would have you believe that this is merely a story about Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a graduate student who became sidetracked by a hash pipe while supposedly working on a thesis about William Shakespeare. But alas, Willie's epiphany that Shakespeare might have been Catholic is merely a smokescreen for a much broader idea.
When character Professor Clarence Welsh suggests that Willie, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, write his master's thesis on Will as the first modern playwright, perhaps drawing parallels between the oppressive state of England in 1852 (against religion) and the oppressive state of the United States in 1986 (against drugs), author Winfield finally reveals the underlying plot buried beneath the bawdy telling of two young men on the verge of reaching maturity (and perhaps attempting to delay the trip).
About Willie Shakespeare Greenberg.
Willie Shakespeare Greenberg hastily proposes "Shakespeare and the Crucifix: Catholic Persecution in Sixteenth-Century England and Its Effect on Elizabethan Theater" based on a singular line within a Shakespearean sonnet after more than a year of biding his time at the university. His plans to carry forward the charade become taut as his father, a Berkley professor, has decided not to extend the educational investment in his son beyond the semester.
While this would still give Willie ample time to complete his thesis, the loss of his allowance would leave him broke. So, after the chance finding of a 32-gram magic mushroom and some coaxing from another would-be student turned campus supplier, Willie agrees to traffic it (along with a duffle full of pot and a jester's costume) to a Renaissance fair, where buyers will be waiting.
All that stands in Willie's way is the DEA and, well, his will.
About William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare, slightly younger than the modern protagonist, is currently teaching as an assistant schoolmaster at the King’s New School of Stratford-upon-Avon. The school's headmaster, branded a Catholic dissident, had recently been replaced with a schoolmaster more interested in rubbing out insurrection in the Protestant state.
William, bound more by a sense of loyalty than a need for currency, also accepts a package in need of delivery. Except, in William's case, he isn't given a planned route like that of his modern counterpart. William is on his own to deliver the package, a locked tabernacle by description.
All that stands in Willie's way is the Protestants and, well, his will.
Sex And Drugs.
The novel is rife with sex, enough that some reviewers felt fit to chastise Winfield on that point, despite being forewarned by the promise of the subtitle. And while the intent is largely for comedic relief, Winfield elevates drugs into its own dogma. Sometimes he laces the latter with heavily left-leaning politics, but is rarely preachy.
The effect of those celebratory vices still does not dull the quest in understanding the potential impact of religion on the famous playwright. This exploratory is more than merely engaging, it's based on a hypothesis that has been reasonably flushed out over the years. Still, don't expect to find an answer from Winfield, who freely admits he made some stuff up.
My Name Is Will: A Novel Of Sex, Drugs, And Shakespeare By Jess Winfield Pens A 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
I almost feel bad not inflating it to a 9.2 or higher. The book is sensational, especially in terms of Winfield's ability to turn a phrase and apply his own Shakespearean experiences to the story. However, the player presentation sometimes distracts from the storytelling.
My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare is available on Amazon. You can pick it up for your Kindle. On iTunes, Winfield reads the audiobook. Fear not, the breathiness subsides after the first two chapters as Winfield realizes he doesn't have to rush the story like he does on stage.