Sneak Peak

I plan to spend the year 2010 in the company of William Shakespeare to discover how his influence will affect me. Will I write deeper, dream more, craft the perfect sonnet in seconds flat? Like eating fruits and vegetables, reading the greatest writer of all time ought to make me better, stronger, faster — something!

Lest you’re wondering, I’m not setting aside the whole year to sit on my arse and flip through the folios at my leisure. Part of the task will be to incorporate him into my daily life, just as any normal human being might (who happened to be crazy enough to try and read all of Shakespeare in a year’s time).

This isn’t some scholarly pretext or pretense. Over the coming days, I’ll go further into my reasons for doing the reading and writing the blog. It’s not that complicated, really…but here’s the gist of it, off the top of my head:

  • Sylvia Plath once mentioned in her diaries that she felt obligated to read everything Shakespeare wrote, which caught me by surprise at the time — I’m not sure why. He’s like climbing Mt. Everest, I guess. How can I leave this planet before I’ve attempted the best writer who ever lived?
  • I need to hold myself accountable in a public forum if I plan to follow through! I’ve tried this before on my own and failed miserably 😦
  • The end of the year is a great time to launch ambitious activities
  • Okay, so I watched Julie & Julia and want to find out how this “blog thingy” works…

I’ll be establishing some ground rules as I go along. Right now I’m only sure I won’t be reading outside/secondary sources until I’ve made a mess of wrestled with each play on my own at least once.

For those of you keeping score at home, I’m a graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis (great books, no gym) and sticking to primary sources is our motto. I’m a context freak, however, and can’t resist delving into background material. Yet I feel that for this project, all first impressions are up to me — though I’ll likely change my mind somewhere amid the Henry sequels.

I’m NOT a Shakespeare scholar, though. I might have managed an English major had I stuck to my guns at the University of Oregon. But I ended up in Germany (a long side story we can get into later), and graduated from UCLA a decade later than I should have with a degree in… you guessed it… German.

I’m not that smart, folks. But I am curious. And passionate. And an avid reader. If my explorations here come across as willfully naive, or outright stupid, it’s because I want to tear away the false veil of omnipotence that surrounds matters relating to the great books — or intellectual life in general in America.

Shakespeare is not relegated to the ivory towers. In fact, I’d wager that’s one of the reasons that makes him so great: he’s universal, he transcends (and survives) all mediums, and he continues to dominate literature like Warren Buffet does the Fortune 500 list.

My plan is to approach this with eagerness and curiosity, and to ask questions that I wished I had found the courage to bring up a long time ago: why are these works so great? What was Shakespeare up to? Why haven’t I read them before now? What can I take from them that might help me in my writing/daily life?

Sure, just like on an episode of XFiles, the answers are out there. I could probably Wiki all I ever needed to know. But as Harold Bloom complained about in his Elegy for the Western Canon, few people seem to be reading the classics these days for the pure joy of it! How remarkable, really, that you can run to your nearest Barnes & Noble and pick up Proust or Dante or Tolstoy for the cost of a couple lattes. And you can read them in the same amount of time as you can follow the current round of Survivor or Dancing with the Stars.

In short, I’m just a goof who wants to hike up the mountain to see what happens. I know it will be rough. I know too there will be times when I want to quit. I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’m not doing this alone. But if I am, that I will at least finish the task I set out for myself and prove that in the future, no obstacle is too great to accomplish if I set my mind to do it (and create a forum where I will suffer endless humiliation if I don’t).

So there.

I still have 15 days left to back out…


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