Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Book!

Here's the brief description of my recently submitted ms. on Shakespeare. Notice that I'm not shy in describing the selling points of myown work. Agents like descriptions of this sort, because they save time and effort:

Shakespeare's Back Room: Tricks and Transgressions of Genius by Robert Grudin Shakespeare's Back Room is a major breakthrough in the understanding of Shakespearean drama and a memorable celebration of the living theater. Focusing on aspects of Shakespeare's style that have been seen by most readers as strokes of pure genius, Grudin reveals the motives and methods that make them so compelling. Grudin's discoveries, including his brilliant treatment of "audience abuse," combine magisterial learning with a style so clear and graceful that it may seem as though you, he and Shakespeare are conversing in real time. Viewing the Shakespearean text from a uniquely intimate perspective, he offers new interpretations of Hamlet, Henry IV (Parts 1 and 2), Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, revealing the subtle engines of enchantment that power each play. A long-recognized Shakespeare scholar, Grudin concludes by revealing how the Bard himself considered his own unique blend of high and low styles -- of psychological depth and cunning trickery. Although Grudin's insights will be of interest to academic readers, he has presented them in a lucid, almost-spoken style that will appeal to fans of Shakespeare everywhere, and that will easily lend itself to translation into other languages. Here, for example, is the opening to Ch. 3:

To embark on a project of narrative, be it a play or a short story or a novel, is to enter a kind of mental city. This metropolis is vivid and universal, both in its population and its geography. Its population includes the full range of human ages and sexes and ethnic types that animate our actual world: the family members, the tradesmen, the professionals, students and teachers, labor and management, and the rest of what one might expect to meet on a walk through a city or town. But this population can also include, as though as a sort of Central Casting, the classic array of character types, the usual suspects of fiction: the growing child, the care giver, the young lover, the soldier, the malcontent, the fat cat, the psychopath, the outsider – in short the full complement of evolved individuals who make life unstable and interesting. The geography of this mental city is equally intimate and familiar. Its streets and squares, its bridges and byways, comprise the panorama of human experience: love, lust, longing, greed, fear, hatred, compassion and the full range of emotion, crisscrossed by parallels of memory, consciousness, oblivion and surprise. We pause by a window to hear a lover proclaiming his devotion to a young lady. At the next corner a messenger announces his news to a group of startled listeners. Across the way a tradesman extols the worth of his product, while two young wags poke fun at him in whispers. A portly mother sails by, lecturing her less-than-attentive daughter about the do’s and don’ts of life, while behind them the grandfather follows slowly, mumbling about the evils of the times. Familiar feelings, familiar forms of expression. The Greeks called them topoi, the Romans loci. Both words mean “place”, and indeed they are places in the republic of letters and the communal mind. Entry to this city is not without its fee. For writers, the price of admission can be years of study and practice. And once you’re actually downtown, the burden of proof is on you. The rank and file of writers are like shoppers, bagging an item here and there and carting them home to botch together into tales or plays. William Shakespeare, however, was more like a marauder – indeed, an Alexander the Great. He took the City of Letters by storm, laid it waste and rebuilt it again. Robert Grudin's many publications on the Renaissance include Mighty Opposites: Shakespeare and Renaissance Contrariety, Boccaccio's Decameron and the Ciceronian Renaissance and the Encyclopedia Britannica article, "Humanism." Himself a kind of Renaissance man, he has also published a five-book sequence on liberty and two novels, including the much-acclaimed Book and the nationally-honored The Most Amazing Thing. His hundreds of publications and public appearances have made him a staple of the Internet literati, while the breadth of his interests has established him as a visible presence in the current literature of several academic fields.

Grudin's speaking venues include Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts, the Parsons School, and UC, Berkeley; he has also spoken at the Herman Miller Corp., Microsoft Research, Google Headquarters (NY), the Lilly Foundation and the Fetzer Foundation. He has been the recipient of major honors, including a Fulbright scholarship, a Woodrow Wilson fellowship, a Guggenheim fellowship, and two grants from the NEH. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon.