The Book: William Shakespeare (general editors, Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor); THE OXFORD SHAKESPEARE: The Complete Works. Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett, and William Montgomery, editors. Oxford University Press reissue, 1998. Fine condition.
First read: Still reading
Owned since: 2000
Every library should start with three books: a Bible, a good dictionary, and the complete Shakespeare. This single volume replaced several battered paperbacks (although I've hung on to some of those for sentimental reasons, and might get to them later in the week). It's a huge book, and not convenient for pleasure reading; I use this book mainly for research, and bought it specifically to answer a question for a client. What's great about Shakespeare is that he's in the public domain, so this book was a relative bargain; I think I paid $25 for it.
I can't say anything about Shakespeare that other people haven't said better. The whole human condition is here: love, hate, rage, redemption, sorrow, joy, jealousy and every strain of family dysfunction. I like productions of Shakespeare that set the plays in non-Elizabethan times, because they remind us of the universality of his subject matter. Several years ago I saw a production of Romeo & Juliet directed by Joe Banno at the Folger Shakespeare Library that set the story in a present-day Catholic high school, and made perfect sense.
That said, I still haven't read all of this. I never took a Shakespeare course, and would need some guidance to get through Coriolanus or Timon of Athens. One of these days, in my copious spare time, I might try to do it myself with a set of Cliff's Notes. Or I might finally take a class.
Five Random Songs
"You Are My Sunshine," Norman Blake. From the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. This is Dizzy's favorite song; I sing it to him all the time. Every so often I get someone else to sing it to him, and he whips his head around with an astonished expression on his face: You know this song too?
"Pirate Jenny," Nina Simone. Possibly the angriest song ever written, sung by the angriest singer. It's not the greatest translation, but Nina Simone's delivery makes up for the clunky English.
"Christmas," The Who. From Tommy, who doesn't know what day it is. Funny, you never hear this one on the all-holiday music soft rock stations.
"Baby Why Not," Dwight Yoakam. A cheerful zydeco number about taking a chance on love. "If someone asks why, we'll say we forgot/And both lost our minds/Well baby, why not?"
"We Should Talk," The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Industrial ska-funk that sounds weirdly dated now; I close my eyes and it's 1995.