Friday, October 17, 2008

My Name Is Will by Jess Winfield

William Shakespeare Greenberg--Willie--is a graduate student in English at UC Santa Cruz. It's 1986 and Willie's been drifting along, supported by his father (a professor at Berkley known for his his scholarly studies of the works of Woody Allen); although the term hasn't been invented yet, today we'd call him a slacker. Mostly, Willie wants to continue to do what he's been doing: smoke lots of dope, read lots of Shakespeare, get laid whenever he can (come to think of it, who wouldn't ideally like to do that?). Unfortunately, his father's going to cut him off at the end of the semester, so the need to choose a thesis topic--and write the damned thing--is looming.

Enter a night of "cow tripping" (a particularly Santa Cruz take on the time-honored aggie tradition of cow tipping, which adds the steps of first searching for [among the cow flops] and then ingesting psilocybin mushrooms, before actually tipping the unsuspecting bovines), during which Willie finds an oversized specimen of hallucinogenic 'shroom and has a vision of his namesake as an 18 year old schoolmaster. As the novel unfolds Willie's story--drug running, DEA agent evading, Renaissance Faire attending--is alternated with William's (Shakespeare, that is), with some zany, hallucinogenic overlapping.

The book is deftly written, loaded with lots of zesty, lusty, joyful wordplay. The story is clever, fun, and always interesting. I look forward to Jess Winfield's next book.

Reading now: The Butt by Will Self

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