I recently finished reading The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D Schmidt. It’s not the sort of book that I usually read (which was one reason why I picked it up in the first place, actually – I like to stretch myself sometimes), but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It made me think of my parents, who grew up in that era and have shared their memories of that turbulent time with my sister and me – and my dad loved Shakespeare in high school, and my mom’s always been crazy for English. So it ended up having a very familiar and comfortable feel, and I most of all appreciated that it ended on a hopeful note, unlike so many of the YA books set in that era. It acknowledged the hardships, but didn’t let them control the protagonist – in fact, much of the theme woven through was how he learned how to use those very hardships to forge his own fate. Good stuff.
And, to get more to the point of this post, it inspired me to give Shakespeare another try. Because my dad loves it so, every few years I go to read another play, and if I’m lucky I get through one, and then my eyes glaze over partway through the second. I would really, most of all, like to take a class on Shakespeare (never got to that one in college – maybe someday, when I go back), to have others help me discover the themes and hidden notes, but for now, I’ll just give it another go on my own.
I asked for recommendations on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, and the overwhelming vote was in favor of one of the comedies, with the Taming of the Shrew coming up over and over again (Hamlet was mentioned a couple times, too, but I think I’d like to start with something a little lighter). So I’m going to give that a go. My usual method for reading these? Find an outline online, or even the Cliff Notes, and read that first. That way, I can soak in the language and pick up the subtleties better when reading the play itself, because I’m not as distracted by also trying to figure out the plot.
So that’s my plan. Hopefully I’ll be able to get through more than just one this fall and winter, and maybe even develop a richer appreciation for Shakespeare – because right now, I must confess, I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s overrated. Heresy, I know!
Are you a fan of Shakespeare? If so, which is your favorite play? Are there famous books, plays, or writers that you secretly (or not-so-secretly) think are overrated? What’s on your reading list for fall?