Friday, April 10, 2009

Shakespeare Wrote for Money...according to Nick Hornby

Trolling my favorite blogs for airplane reading a few weeks ago, I pounced on a title that appealed to me on every level, Nick Hornby's Shakespeare Wrote for Money. I added it to my Amazon wish list and without really checking it out, I blithely spent my hard-earned Borders Bucks on it just before leaving for the airport last weekend.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that it was a collection of Hornby's columns in the Believer on what he read each month between August 06 and September 08. Not that the columns aren't interesting in and of themselves, and since this is my first taste of Hornby, though I did like the movie version of About a Boy (Full Screen Edition), it's not a complete loss. But, I wanted to read about Shakespeare!

Hornby got the book's title from his April 07 column in which he included notes about James Shapiro's A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 (P.S.)
so I did get about a page of some Shakespeare discussion, mostly comparing it to Claire Tomalin's bio of Thomas Hardy.

Here's what Hornby had to say about Shapiro's book:
It's a brilliant book, riveting, illuminating, and original...full of stuff with which you want to amaze, enlighten, and educate your friends. 1599 was the year Shakespeare polished off Henry V, wrote As You Like It and Julius Caesar, and drafted Hamlet....Both Julius Caesar and Henry V are shown to be more about England's conflict with Ireland than we had any hope of understanding without Shapiro's expert illumination...The only thing you have to care about to love this book is how and why things get written. The "why" is relatively straightforward: Shakespeare wrote for money. He had a wife, a new theater, and a large theater company to support...the "how is more illusive...

I don't mean to 'dis Hornby, but the 1599 book is the one I really want to read. It's on my Amazon list and I may have to buy it before I've accumulated any more Borders Bucks.

An aside, having read a lot of Bill Bryson and none (up to now) of Nick Hornby, in his column on reading anyway, Hornby's voice sounds remarkably similar to Bryson's.


  1. I've read Hornby's essays (although not that collection) and liked them, but if they are not what you're expecting, I can see they would disappoint. I hope you get the chance to read 1599 and get some Shakespeare!

  2. I ordered it a couple of days ago, so it'll be on the stack by week's end :)

  3. Cool blog! Very informative. If you want to read a great book about "Shakespeare," I recommend "Shakespeare by Another Name" by Mark Anderson. It goes deep into Shakespeare's work and compares it to the life of Edward De Vere, or whom Anderson believes to be the real "Shakespeare." I challenge you to read it and not be totally convinced.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Hagrid. I'll put "Shakespeare by Another Name" by Mark Anderson on the list to take a look at. I read S. Schoenbaum's "Shakespeare's Lives" a number of years ago, and that helped me shelve any lingering notions that Shakespeare didn't write the plays, but I'm always open to reading the theories as I find the whole discussion interesting.