by Jess Winfield; Boston, Twelve Publishers, 2008, 320 pages, $14.99
Dr. Bridges practices psychiatry in public and private settings and is the owner of The Storyteller's Book Store, Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Jess Winfield intends a "ripping yarn" told through the device of parallel stories 400 years apart. Alternating chapters describe the early life of playwright William Shakespeare and that of a college student named William Shakespeare Greenberg.
The plot sees both characters charged with the delivery of a package. Each confronts young adult developmental tasks along the way and grows in the completion of the task. The modern-day "Willie" Shakespeare's journey is set in the 1980s version of West Coast college drug culture, where he is attempting to write a master's thesis about religious influences in the course of playwright Shakespeare's work.
The author characterizes his tale of the historical Shakespeare as part history, part legend; the rest is from his imagination. Although Winfield admits this is not scholarship in the usual sense of the word, I found his creation to be a thoughtful contemplation on how the bard became the "Bard of Avon." He deserves applause for exercising his curiosity about the matter.
The other story line came across as less substantial in several ways. This rendering of the drug culture seems too reminiscent of previous works, such as those of Tom Robbins, Richard Farina, and the young Tom Wolfe. The character arc of college student Shakespeare toward maturity begins late in the book and may leave the reader unconvinced. Substantial themes such as unresolved grief for his mother and his struggle to make accommodation with authority receive inadequate attention to allow real appreciation of this character's struggles.
My Name Is Will should be most appreciated by those schooled both in psychological development and in Shakespeare. Without the latter, Winfield's genuine wit with his subject matter may not be appreciated. The placement of a climactic moment in a modern-day Renaissance Faire is only one several devices that make the book a remarkable work of creativity.
The reviewer reports no competing interests.