Skip to main content

Book 3 of 52: Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner


To lunch on Wednesday, I wore the following outfit:

1. Vintage 1988 Broad Street Run t-shirt
2. Brown GAP pants
3. Brown New Balance sneakers

As I checked myself in the mirror one more time before I left, I came to a sad realization: At 27, I still have the fashion sense of a high school tomboy.

How fitting, then, that I'd just started Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner.

Spanking Shakespeare is about Shakespeare Shapiro, a high school senior who spends most of his time brooding about his status as unpopular, and a virgin. He spends most of the book, told in memoir form, pondering why he is unpopular and a virgin, and how he can remedy both situations.

I'm told by the PR materials that this book is for young readers. I'm not sure how I feel about that, and not only because of the NSFW content (and, near the end, drawing). I'm all for letting teenagers read books with cursing, sex and all kinds of adult themes. My issue with the young reader label is that Spanking Shakespeare has the potential to entertain grown ups.

Who doesn't have awkward high school memories? I skipped over a lot of that teenage dating angst because I had a boyfriend though most of high school (though it caught up with me in college and still rents out a big chunk of my brain), but I can related to the protagonist. Like him, I obsessed about the smallest details. Would the hot guy in my math class tell his buddies that I showed him my retainer? Were my pants pegged at the appropriate length? Were my bangs of acceptable fluffiness? Or should I grow them out? What if I don't grow them out? Will people cut me out of their prom pictures?

And on, and on.

So it's adult-appropriate in the sense that we can relate, and laugh. The other issue I have with Spanking Shakespeare in the adult/young reader argument is that writing is so grown up. I'm not saying that there aren't high school kids who can write like Wizner does as Shapiro. But I think the writing is too perfect and too well crafted for it to be done by a high school senior.

I took a graduate writing class with Lisa Zeidner, and as a class, we talked about this at length. When writing about childhood, you can take one of two points of view: write it in the voice of whatever age you were at that time, which means you cannot have adult-like revelations and insights, or look back and write about the events as yourself now, as an adult, where you can discuss the events as you see them now.

This should apply to memoir and fiction, and I would like to think that Spanking Shakespeare takes the latter point of view, but that's impossible since this is the memoir of a fictional high school character. It's not something that ruined the book -- I thought it was very entertaining, and funny -- but the point of view thing lingered, like a tickle you get at the back of your throat but can't get rid of. It doesn't hurt, but it's a distraction.

If you've been keeping track of these reviews and marvel at my speed reading ability, take heart: I'd already finished Julie & Julia when I started this project. The Four Man Plan was full of pictures and graphics, which sliced down how many words were in the book, and Spanking Shakespeare is being produced as a young adult book, so the type is larger than what you'd find in a for-adults book, which made for another zippy read -- plus I'd read half of Spanking Shakespeare before I dug into The Four Man Plan. I have a large, heavy book up next, and I'm reading it for a newspaper review, so I'll be taking my time through that one. Still, it's nice to put down three books in my first week. Stay tuned to see if I can keep up with the pace.

Read more about Spanking Shakespeare at www.jakewizner.com.

Comments

Trish Ryan said…
You can do it! Remember, it's totally fair game to reach back to books you read before, because all we care about is whether or not you recommend it.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro