My Name is Will Review
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Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is in deep trouble. He’s been mooching off his dad while putting off his Master’s thesis on the other William Shakespeare—but now his dad’s generosity has reached its limit. Willie’s dad is cutting him off—and Willie hasn’t done any research. Instead of heading to the library, however, Willie finds himself on a bus to Berkeley—on a mission to deliver (and sell) a giant hallucinogenic mushroom. The way Willie sees it, Shakespeare can wait. Desperate times, after all, call for desperate measures—and Willie is desperate.

Throughout My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) co-creator Winfield mingles the story of 1980s Santa Cruz stoner Willie with that of 1580s Stratford-upon-Avon William, an 18-year-old teacher and future playwright. He cleverly weaves their stories together through the characters’ similarities and connections. Both Willie and William are young and fun-loving and irresponsible—and both face some serious obstacles. For Willie, it’s a drug run and his impending poverty. For William, it’s an important Catholic relic and his impending nuptials.

As the novel’s subtitle warns, My Name is Will covers all kinds of unseemly (and illegal) behavior. It’s slightly indecent and highly irreverent. One might even call it bawdy. But it’s also smart and funny and extremely entertaining. Winfield appropriately fills the novel with clever language, Bard-like wit, and, of course, loads of innuendo. In fact, if Shakespeare were around today, I’m pretty sure this is the kind of stuff he’d be writing.

While Winfield keeps things nice and light, he also manages to fill the story with insights and observations. Though he admits to taking liberties and making lots of stuff up (this is, after all, a novel), he also throws in some interesting facts and theories about the Bard. And, at the same time, he brings life to a character that many see as little more than a stuffy old English writer whose works are used to inflict pain and suffering upon students everywhere.

The story, too, is interesting—even if you don’t know much about Shakespeare. Winfield connects his two characters in intriguing (though occasionally dubious) ways, and he turns their intertwined stories into a bizarre coming-of-age tale about two men in two very different times and places. And, as an added bonus, it’s a whole lot easier to understand than any actual work of Shakespeare.

Just as Winfield’s hilarious stage show, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), did for Shakespeare’s plays, so My Name is Will does for the playwright himself. It makes him accessible—like a guy you’d actually want at your table at the pub. And after reading My Name is Will, you might even want to go back and give his plays another try.

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