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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Fans of Rogen will enjoy his laid-back, whimsical memoir.

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YEARBOOK

Everyone’s favorite stoner recalls his childhood, youth, and first stirrings of Hollywood success.

“My friends are thrilled when their kids don’t shit all over their floors,” writes Rogen. “As an adult, I get little to no praise for doing the same.” It’s a characteristic line; Rogen leans heavily on the seven words with which George Carlin made so much hay, with a dash of Borscht Belt shtick (“The hardest part about being Jewish is…the grandparents”) and some occasional high-concept material. The author reveals that he inherited a touch of his father’s Tourette’s mixed in with his mother’s gentleness, the blend of which resulted in a kind of easygoing ADHD best treated with lashings of marijuana. When he learned that a teenage friend had smoked pot with her brother, he asked how it felt. “It burns your throat like crazy,” she replied, to which Rogen responded, “Awesome.” Other drugs come and go in these pages—MDMA, for one, which can certainly make a pitch meeting difficult. And then there’s this: “If you’ve ever been grocery shopping while an inhuman amount of hallucinogenic mushrooms are [sic] aggressively taking over your system, you know that shit ain’t easy.” Indeed. Rogen’s not inclined to badmouth, though from time to time, his critical bone is tickled (“all the movies to come out of Project Greenlight fucking suck butt”). He also makes it clear, through encounters with the likes of Kanye West, Nicolas Cage, and George Lucas, that Los Angeles is the world headquarters of eccentricity bordering on madness. As a good Canadian, too, Rogen can’t help but get in a few digs at the rest of the country, as when he considers the reluctance of the federal government to legalize pot, “because it’s just too effective a way to persecute minorities and keep prisons full, which are things that they love to do in America.”

Fans of Rogen will enjoy his laid-back, whimsical memoir.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984825-40-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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