An entertaining look at a literary iconoclast.

NORTH BY SHAKESPEARE

A ROGUE SCHOLAR'S QUEST FOR THE TRUTH BEHIND THE BARD'S WORK

How Shakespearean was Shakespeare?

In this investigative follow-up to The Map Thief (2014), journalist Blanding dives into the ongoing debates over the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays with a lively profile of freelance writer Dennis McCarthy, who has mounted considerable evidence that Shakespeare drew heavily on the works of English translator, lawyer, diplomat, and writer Thomas North (1535-1604). The son of Edward North, a prominent courtier who rose in stature and wealth during the reigns of Henry VIII, his daughter Mary, and finally Elizabeth, Thomas kept a detailed journal during travels with his father and enjoyed a privileged view of aristocracy. With McCarthy, Blanding traced Thomas’ footsteps in England, France, and Italy, research that informs his brisk recounting of North’s life and turbulent times. Unlike some who claim that another person—Francis Bacon, perhaps, or Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford—was the real author of Shakespeare’s plays; and unlike others who argue that Shakespeare likely collaborated with multiple co-writers, McCarthy told Blanding that “he believed the Bard of Avon wrote every word attributed to him during his lifetime.” He also believed, however, that Shakespeare—who never traveled in Europe and had no connection to court life—needed to rely on sources. Even Mark Twain questioned how Shakespeare “mastered the nuances of a lawyer, a courtier, and a soldier” without experiencing those roles. While scholars agree that historical chronicles by Holinshed and Hall provided much material, McCarthy claims that Shakespeare lifted plots, characters, and even phrasing from North. Using plagiarism detection software and referring to the huge database Early English Books Online, McCarthy has concluded that correspondences between Shakespeare and North are indisputable. Not surprisingly, McCarthy’s arguments have not been welcomed by Shakespearean scholars; too many, he asserts, are invested in the image of Shakespeare as a solitary genius. Readers who peruse his lengthy appendix, offering parallel excerpts from North and Shakespeare, can come to their own conclusions.

An entertaining look at a literary iconoclast.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49324-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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