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Me and Shakespeare: Life-Changing Adventures with the Bard [Hardcover]

Herman Gollob
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 30 2002
One man’s post-retirement passion for the works of history's greatest literary genius becomes an inspiring intellectual and spiritual adventure--and a lesson in the ageless wisdom to be found in literature.

In the twilight of a successful career as a book editor, Herman Gollob attended a superb Broadway production of Hamlet with Ralph Fiennes. The experience proved so galvanizing that it ignited a latent passion for literary scholarship and for all things Shakespearean. Shedding the drudgery of fixing halt and lame manuscripts, he engaged in a fever of self-education via a vast array of books, videotapes, performances, and lectures--becoming, as he put it, "an old man made mad by love of Shakespeare." In short order, he became so well versed that he began teaching a popular Shakespeare course for seniors at a small local college in New Jersey. He then made a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.; sought out encounters with great actors and directors--including Olympia Dukakis, Michael Kahn, David Suchet, John Barton, and Cicely Berry; took a summer course on Shakespeare at Oxford; and made a pilgrimage to the Globe Theatre in London to see, of course, Hamlet. This late-blooming Bardomania even enriched the growth of his Jewish identity, resulting in a uniquely Hebraic theory about King Lear.

In relating this tale of an autodidact's progress, Gollob interweaves his rich family history, personal experience, and past meetings with the great and notorious, including Orson Welles, James Jones, Lee Marvin, Frank Sinatra, Donald Barthelme, James Clavell, Dan Jenkins, Willie Morris, and a host of others. Like Great Books by David Denby, Me and Shakespeare is a memoir that attests to the lifelong power of literature to enrich, enlarge, and exalt. It is, as well, one of the most entertaining and unusual books on Shakespeare ever written.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This is a thoroughly engaging account of one man's late-life passion and his attempts, mainly successful, at pitching it to others. At age 67, having retired after a long and distinguished career in publishing, Gollob surprised himself and everyone around him by parlaying his recently acquired fanaticism for the Bard into a position teaching Shakespeare at an elder hostel. The conversion experience had come when Gollob witnessed Ralph Fiennes's acclaimed 1995 Broadway performance in Hamlet. Gollob had already recovered his Jewish roots, having had a bar-mitzvah in middle age; combining his two passions, he began to make connections between the Torah and Shakespeare. After several terms as a popular instructor, Gollob decided he needed to go back to school and enrolled in a short course on Shakespeare at Oxford, where he was so taken with his studies that he quotes big sections of his term paper (a Judaic reading of King Lear) and notes that even though he far exceeds the 15-minute limit for oral reports, his teacher exclaims that she was too rapt by his presentation to interrupt. Gollob fails to distinguish the various voices in his overearnest dialogue, and he has the autodidact's habit of proclaiming as original discoveries that have been generally accepted by scholars for years. But his enthusiasm for his subject is infectious describing a pub meal with fellow Oxford scholars following an eye-opening morning of research, he asks, "Was that the happiest moment of my life or what?" and his boyish zeal comes across as a call to arms to all readers who've ever contemplated changing their lives.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Inviting the reader to share in his personal quest, Gollob details his obsession with Shakespeare. An editor for such publishing houses as Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Little, Brown, Gollob left his work behind to chase down the Bard after seeing a Broadway production of Hamlet starring Ralph Fiennes. Here, he offers detailed inside views of the publishing world, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the newly constructed Globe Theater, an Oxford University course on Shakespeare, and a host of actors, directors, and assorted celebrities. His insights and discoveries on all things Shakespearean are sharp and well considered, and his take on Hamlet is particularly revealing of himself and of the text. Gollob is a man in love with books, indeed one who has spent a lifetime involved with books; that love and knowledge are present on every page. While some of his adventures are more interesting than others, his excitement about his journey is addictive. The result is a unique book dense with living and learning. Recommended for all public libraries. Neal Wyatt, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars About, and for, discovery March 7 2004
By tahl2
Format:Paperback
Most of the previous reviewers have stressed the self-focus that, I agree, is both a strength & the weakness of Me and Shakespeare.
But only one reviewer so far has mentioned how useful the book is in giving a layman's guide to some of the scholarly and popular critical literature on the plays. I enjoyed Gollob's brief descriptions of one old favorite (Goddard) and of many books that were new to me, and that I've now tracked down.
Many of these books are mentioned in Chapter 1, but others pop up throughout the book as Gollob talks about the individual plays. He devotes most thought to the tragedies and the "Roman plays." The English histories -- particularly Henry V -- that I conclude Gollob doesn't find them very interesting. Eh, to each his own.
Gollob also includes interesting tidbits from interviews or meetings he arranged over time with various Shakespeare luminaries: Richard Kuhta (librarian at the Folger), Patrick Spottiswoode (director of education at the new Globe), John Barton (famed Royal Shakespeare Company Director), others.
And speaking of John Barton: I'm grateful to this book for introducing me to Playing Shakespeare, a very expensive ($1000+ !) early-1980s video series with Barton and RSC actors (Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, many others) thinking through how to perform roles and solve various acting challenges. There's also a book that transcribes much (all?) of the series: Playing Shakespeare: An Actor's Guide, by John Barton (ISBN 0385720858). Until I win the lottery, I'll have to stick with that.
I've seen elsewhere that a similar-sounding (and similarly pricy) new series, Working Shakespeare, is due out in the U.S. in April 2004, featuring actors like Jeremy Irons and Samuel L. Jackson. Maybe Amazon will someday carry it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Gollob and Shakespeare Feb. 9 2004
Format:Paperback
On the whole, I found this book an enjoyable and interesting read. As another reviewer said, you will enjoy it more if you're sixty plus, fond of Shakespeare, and Jewish. I qualify on two out of three. The Jewish references were beyond my ken.
For a person nearing retirement, it's fascinating to see what some people do with their lives after full-time paid employment ends. After I retire, I plan to read all the great works of literature I've missed so far, and Shakespeare is on my list.
Gollob (he must hate it that so many people can't bother to spell his name correctly) took "Shakespeare in Love" far too seriously. After all, it was a romantic comedy. It was supposed to be fun! His criticisms of its historical inaccuracies is like criticizing Shakespeare for his witches and fairies.
Gollob is a little too full of himself at times, but he must have loved writing this book and gently bragging about his achievements and the famous people he's bumped against over the years.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Enthusiastic Read Aug. 2 2002
Format:Hardcover
Herman Gollob is, in his own words, "an old man made mad by a love of Shakespeare." In other words, he is a dedicated amateur: enthusiastic, opinionated, curious, alternatively cocky and unsure, given to name-dropping. To read Me and Shakespeare is to read about Herman Gollob as much as it is to read about Shakespeare.
The memoir, however, does not slide off into the merely autobiographical. No matter how self-involved Mr. Gollob's tangents, he is tenacious in returning to the matter at hand. Throughout the course of the book, the reader investigates with Mr. Gollob, the plays, the sonnets, the new Globe, acting classes, the Folger, various scholary works, Oxford and pubs. The dedicated amateur is not limited by the pressures of thesis or reputation and Mr. Gollob transitions merrily and unrepentantly from topic to topic.
The book is not as disjointed as the style suggests. There is an overriding theme of rejuvenation as one grows older. Mr. Gollob uses his own personal thesis about Shakespeare and Judaism as a binding thread throughout the narrative. There is order and method to his superficially gregarious and haphazard appearance.
The thesis is intensely personal. Mr. Gollob is an amateur and has the amateur's enthusiastic desire to recreate Shakespeare in his own image. This is not a portrait of Shakespeare as an ordinary Elizabethean with a remarkable gift for writing. Yet even scholars have a difficult time accepting this version of Shakespeare (which I do believe to be the most accurate one). We want Shakespeare to be like us, to be as universal as his genius, to be as open to interpretation as his plays. We want his imagination to be based in something more concrete and accessible than the pure imagination of a hard-working writer. In this context, Mr.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Strutting upon the stage..... July 25 2002
Format:Hardcover
I have one major problem with SHAKESPEARE AND ME by Herman Gollob-there is too much Gollob and not enough Shakespeare. Gollob is probably a very nice man, but he has too much to say about himself, and too little of it was of interest to me. Mr. Gollob apparently was a successful New York book editor before he retired and began teaching Shakespeare to adult classes. He name drops authors all over the place and adds bits of gossip here and there about former clients. When he isn't name dropping he is telling you about his family, his friends, his church, etc. which is fine if he's your neighbor or friend, but I did not pay for this kind of amusement.
I probably would have enjoyed Gollob's book if he had spent more time writing about his lectures on Shakespeare-condensing his material into a reasonably erudite set of essays as other professors have done before him. I am interested in Shakespeare (why I bought the book). Instead, he offers a few tantalizing bits and then rambles on all over the place. Where ever he goes, be it the theater, the classroom, the bookstore, or a hotel in Oxford, he seems to feel compelled to identify and comment on the people present. I almost had the sense that Mary, Bob, Anne and the others were going to be looking for their names in print and he was determined to oblige them.
He also mentions at least 50 times that he is an Aggie fan from Texas, that he did not like his mother, and that he thinks Shakespeare got many of his ideas from the Bible. Okay already, the Bible was a big deal in Shakespeare's England as anyone who has studied the Elizabethan age knows. The Elizabethans were early English Protestants whose whole approach was "back to basics." Elizabeth's successor James had the Bible translated from Latin into English.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Enlightening
As a Shakespeare enthusiast and writer, I completely enjoyed all aspects of this book. Gollob honestly shares his passion of Shakespeare and his personal history, both are... Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2003 by C. Stephans
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare's Disease
I bought this book after sighting it in a competitor store where I felt it was overpriced. My Amazon. Read more
Published on June 26 2003 by Michael Ziegler
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasure to Read
After reading "Me and Shakespeare" I feel as if Herman Gollob is an old friend. As a fellow auto-didact I can relate so well to all tat he has written. Read more
Published on June 26 2002 by Robert Franklin
4.0 out of 5 stars Will Make You Hungry for the Bard
Yes, the author is a bit self-involved: the title, remember, is "Me and Shakespeare" not "Shakespeare and Me". Read more
Published on June 25 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Big Disappointment
When I saw author Herman Gollob interviewed on PBS' Newshour, I was so impressed, I impulse ordered the book. TILT! Read more
Published on June 17 2002 by Richard Piro
1.0 out of 5 stars Me, Me, Me
I have to say that this book is an outrageous example of solopsism, written by one of the most self-engaged individuals imaginable. Read more
Published on June 5 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Change as well as Shakespeare
This is a powerful read, obviously about Shakespeare, as mentioned in above reviews, but as significantly, about a man's courage and willingness to change. Read more
Published on May 30 2002 by Jon D. Katz
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best is Yet To Be
The wonderfully unique book is best appreciated if you are Jewish, a senior citizen and/or a Shakespeare buff. Read more
Published on May 27 2002 by John Knight
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful voyage to the planet Shakespeare
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day... Read more
Published on May 26 2002 by Roy E. Perry
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