A lively, heterodox take on the Bard of Avon.

HANG SHAKESPEARE!

BUT NOT DE VERE: A TRUE STORY MYSTERY SOLVED

Boog enthusiastically takes on mainstream William Shakespeare scholars in this iconoclastic work of literary criticism.

The 2011 film Anonymous gave flesh to the argument that a nobleman named Edward de Vere wrote most or all of the plays ascribed to Shakespeare. The thesis wasn’t unknown in scholarly circles; indeed, most academics considered it thoroughly debunked. And yet the question at its heart—did someone else write Shakespeare?—remains tantalizing, and Boog tackles it with admirable verve in this book of criticism. For him, the record is clear: de Vere wrote the plays, and Shakespeare was just a poor bumpkin. Boog has an intriguing thesis as to why de Vere used a pseudonym, and a pile of scientific, historical, and textual material that purportedly proves his case. He lays it all out with remarkable energy, and it’s a thrill to watch him circle letters in Ben Jonson’s sonnets, delve into the minutiae of Copernican astronomy, and review obscure pieces of Renaissance history. Much of the putative evidence feels circumstantial, but it’s hard not to enjoy the ride as Boog presents it, even if he sometimes treats his opponents unfairly by oversimplifying their arguments. For instance, he writes: “Only Shakespeare, they insist, could have written the works attributed to William Shakespeare. Why? Basically, because other writers have said so.” This is uncharitable, at best, as numerous scholars have done exhaustive historical and archival research on the matter. Boog’s book, on the other hand, lacks a bibliography, and the fact he occasionally misspells scholars’ names doesn’t bolster his credibility. Furthermore, the fact that many “other writers,” over the course of centuries, say that Shakespeare wrote his works shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. That being said, there is provocative, if anecdotal, information in these pages, and Boog’s review of it is often quite fun. Indeed, it’s hard not to be pulled in by the breathless “mystery.”

A lively, heterodox take on the Bard of Avon.

Pub Date: March 8, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 121

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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