Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reader's Diary #368- Sarah Smith: Chasing Shakespeares

This is my last pick for the Shakespeare Reading Challenge, getting my fourth read in with just half a month to go. Too bad I had to end on such a disappointing note.

Chasing Shakespeares is the story of a Shakespeare scholar who may have found proof that the bard was not who we've been led to believe.

That the man behind all those brilliant plays and sonnets was not, in actuality, William Shakespeare is not a new theory. I thought for a while that I even cared. Credit Smith for curing me of that notion.

On her website, one paragraph describing this particular novel begins, "In a literary adventure reminiscent of the Da Vinci Code..." Blame Smith for making me appreciate Dan Brown a little more.

First off, the Da Vinci Code is a novel about conspiracy theories. Chasing Shakespeares is not. A conspiracy theory indicates there is someone or group still trying to conceal the truth. A tacked on enemy in Chasing Shakespeares might have added some much needed excitement. Instead, Smith tacks on a love story.

How truly boring were the the up-speaking Posy and the f-word spouting Joe Roper; lovers who were, of course, from opposite sides of the track. But even more unfortunate than the annoying characters was the transparency of Smith's desire to turn the book into a movie. There are film references all over the place:
"'You know,' she said, 'we could get rich. We could write a book about finding the letter. Give lectures. And that's just the beginning. The book. The movie from the book. I want,' she thought, 'Spielberg to direct the movie. Ben Affleck and Cate Blanchett to play us.'"
Okay, she might get Affleck on board.

Smith also seems to be under the impression that a revelation about Shakespeare's identity would cause mass riots:
"'You know you're going to have to take a stand on Oxford and stop caring what people say about you. Because like half the world is going to think you're Charles Manson for not believing in Shakespeare.'"
Granted, the two quotes I've used as examples above are both spoken by Posy and some readers might be inclined to say these grandiose statements are of a character's and not Smith's own delusions. Possibly. But the Hollywood-style cheese doesn't end there.

Last week Debbie and I watched Kevin Spacey in The Life of David Gale. There's one particular scene in which we were subjected to this Please-can-I-have-another-Oscar speech:
"'We spend our whole life trying to stop death. Eating, inventing, loving, praying, fighting, killing. But what do we really know about death? Just that nobody comes back. Then there comes a point - a moment - in life when your mind outlives its desires, its obsessions, when your habits survive your dreams, and when your losses... Maybe death is a gift.'"
Chasing Shakepeares is full of such lame attempts. Over and over again she makes references to God being a librarian. Likewise she runs a Twain quote about lightning bugs into the ground. Spacey's speech was bad enough, imagine if he made it in every other scene.

In Chasing Shakespares Smith tried way too hard. But not to write a good book.

The Soundtrack
1. Lovers Who Uncover- Crystal Castles vs The Little Ones
2. Valley Girl- Frank and Moon Unit Zappa
3. I'll Believe In You (Or I'll Be Leaving You Tonight)- The Tragically Hip
4. Man Research (Clapper)- Gorillaz
5. English Civil War- The Clash

(Cross-posted at BiblioShakespeare)


Teddy Rose said...

Thanks for the review and the warning. I think I'll stay clear of this one.

Teena in Toronto said...

Thanks for the comment! I'd read about Linwood Barclay being on Richard and Judy's list. Great exposure for him. It was a good book.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Mmmmmm, this one does sound like it's trying to be too precious. I shall give it a pass.