Friday, December 01, 2006

Crabby Friday Night

I detest Friday nights. While everyone else seems to become miraculously regenerated after a week of penal servitude, I crash. The week’s sleep-deprivation, lack of real food and exercise, and sheer disgust with my fellow human beings makes me the crabbiest Happy Hour companion in the world. So tonight I spurned invitations to two concerts and one holiday office party, all in favor of a night of introverted bliss.

Well, introverted bliss and amber cider of the yummy alcohol variety. Mmmm…

And what better way to spend such an evening other than venting all my misanthropic spleen upon crappy books? None of the following monstrosities deserved their own entry, so here they are, all lumped together in one horrific pile of steaming poo. Let the stinky journey begin!

Title: Shakespeare by Another Name: A Biography of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare
Author: Mark Anderson

The very existence of this book proves that even serious, respected academics can be taken in by bullshit conspiracy theories. In my opinion, Edward de Vere was not – and never could’ve been – the author of the wonderful plays written by someone by the name of William Shakespeare. Why? Simply because he was an arrogant, selfish ass who was far too concerned with money and power to have the sympathetic, vivacious imagination that created colorful characters like as Prince Hal, Shylock, and Puck.

Also, based upon the few verified writing samples of his in this book, he was a seriously crappy writer with no sense of humor.

The Oxfordian theory seems to be based upon the ridiculous notion that only someone highly educated and cultured could’ve written Shakespeare’s plays – that the beauty and intelligence of the language can only be the result of money, leisure, and noble blood.

Well, this isn’t the Shakespeare I love. That Shakespeare was an energetic wit, someone who approached life with a wink and a nod, and who was always sympathetic to the outsider. Most of all, my Shakespeare is funny, and understands the value of a good dirty joke. He wrote for the everyday person, and not for some half-rate academic who’s far too taken with what he thinks is his own subversive intellect (i.e., Oxfordian proponents).

I see none of that in the proud, whiny de Vere, who always thought he deserved more than he got.

I actually approached Anderson’s thesis with a willing mind, ready to be convinced…or at least entertained. I was neither. His technique is to draw comparisons between Oxford’s life and Shakespeare’s plays. The problem? Shakespeare is great because he is universal. We can all relate to his plays – there are probably numerous events in all of our lives with parallels in the Shakespearean canon. Besides, all the details in the book are just plain boring.

I wasn’t actively offended by the Oxfordian theory before reading this book. I am now.

Title: Dreams from My Father
Author: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)

I like Sen. Barack Obama. I watched his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address live on television, and jumped to my feet cheering when he finished. That speech was a thing of beauty. I’d vote for him for President (or Vice President, which is far more likely). Seriously, imagine a President who could not only read, but WRITE and SPEAK, too! What an amazing concept! But Obama tells a real lousy story – or at least he did in 1995, which is when he wrote this memoir.

This was a fine book, with writing that was very professional and polished. Obama is a thoughtful and polite companion. But he’s BORING. The purpose of this memoir is to chronicle one man’s attempt to reconcile his black and white heritage. Meh. I hate books like this. I have no problem with people getting “in touch with their roots”...I just don’t understand why they then have to tell everyone else about their wonderful journey! Personally, I don’t give a damn. Tell me what you’ve done.

Oh, Obama does spend a lot of time chronicling his early political activist days in Chicago. I can’t really talk about that part much because I can only read so much about “cheap coffee and donut” meetings before I want to hang myself from the nearest rickety ceiling fan. Being rather fond of life, I skipped most of this section.

Most disappointing, Obama didn’t talk at all about his days at Harvard Law School, where he became the first African America editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. That I was interested in. That’s something not everyone can do. That’s unique. That’s -

Eh. I’m bored. Moving on.

Title: Bartleby the Scrivener
Author: Herman Melville

So, you want to kill yourself. You have the means all prepared. The tub is filling with warm water, the hose is attached to the exhaust pipe, and the cup of hemlock is grasped in your trembling hand. But wait - something's stopping you. You don’t have quite the necessary resolve. There’s a little bird chirping happily in your heart, a dim light at the end of the dismal tunnel of your life, a silver lining to your cloud of doom and gloom. Maybe life isn't so bad after all...

Well, if you ever find yourself is such a situation, have no fear! Bartleby the Scrivener is here! Reading this novella of Melville’s should be enough to give even Shirley Temple the unflappable determination to end her own life.

This story is seriously one of the most depressing ones I’ve ever read. Bartleby, of course, is a scrivener. Well, what the hell’s a scrivener? Basically, he’s a drone who copied legal documents by hand before the days of typewriters and computers – a job dreary enough to make anyone gaze at that handy butcher knife longingly.

Well, one day at work, Bartleby simply refuses to do anymore copying. His boss insists, but he still refuses. The only thing he says in explanation? “I prefer not to.”

Recommended to me by a co-worker, I initially thought this was a wonderful premise for a story. I love the dark humor of Moby Dick, and I expected to find the same in Bartleby. I thought the whole story would basically be one giant F YOU! to society and bosses everywhere – you know, kind of like Office Space.

But I was wrong. Bartleby isn’t only not interested in copying anymore…he’s not interested in ANYTHING. His entire life simply shuts down slowly – and his fate is what you would expect to happen if you follow the phrase “I prefer not to” to its ultimate conclusion.

Yeah, depressing. Avoid at all costs.

posted by Elizabeth at 8:31 PM


Blogger Kat said...

Wow Elizabeth. Clearly you need help: "one horrific pile of steaming poo"? Lovely. Poor Sen. Barack Obama - he clearly bared his soul and you trampled on it. :P

As for Herman Melville, I think you are nuts for even reading that stuff. I once resolved to read Moby Dick. I got as far as "Call me Ishmael." Perhaps some day I'll attempt to tackle it again, who knows.

12/05/2006 8:17 AM  
Anonymous jives said...

I just finished that Anderson Oxford book and I've been trolling around looking for reviews from likeminded people, and your is awesome. So true. It's hard to read a whole book where you feel like the author is being intellectually dishonest and mean spirited. At the core, your argument is the one that matters. If in some future time people accept Anderson's arguments, I think it would be a tragedy for Shakespeare appreciation. Mystery belongs in theater.

3/18/2007 1:20 AM  

Post a Comment