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My Name is Will

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  890 ratings  ·  198 reviews
"Utterly delicious, original, witty, hilarious and brilliant. Shakespeare In Love on magic mushrooms. The Bard has never been this much fun."
-Christopher Buckley, author of Boomsday and Thank You For Smoking

A Tale of two Shakespeares...

Struggling UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is trying to write his thesis about the Bard. Kind of...

Cut off by
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Hardcover, 291 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Twelve
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,605)
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Terence
I was leaning toward 3 stars but the last half of this quirky novel pushed it into the 3.6-3.8 range.

My Name Is Will recounts the parallel stories of a critical-year-in-the-life of William Shakespeare and his modern-day namesake William Shakespeare Greenberg (Willie), a prodigal son cruising on auto-pilot through the grad program at UC Santa Cruz. Both he and Shakespeare face life-altering events as young men (Willie's in his 20s, Shakespeare is 18) that force both to focus their minds on what k
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will
My name is Will, and that is also the name of this book - coincidence? I don't think so. Someone, somewhere, thought it would be "amusing" to get me a book that's title is something I might say. Even betterer [sic:] the "friend" also got the book signed and dedicated by the author - dedicated to me! The author has written inside the book: "Your name is Will". The whole concept is genius! Shame I can't say the same for the book.

I hate to say bad things about a book, especially when I don't finish
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Ross
"Shakespeare in Love" meets "Julie and Julia" (or at least so far as I can tell without having actually seen that movie). The simultaneous plots follow a young William Shakespeare around the time he was becoming a playwright and William (“Willie”) Shakespeare Greenberg as he is struggling to finish his masters thesis on, you guessed it, Shakespeare. The author attempts to show parallels in the two protagonists’ lives through the use of alternating chapters. Surprisingly, this is not annoying, an ...more
Jen
Nov 29, 2008 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Shakespeare fans
Recommended to Jen by: my goodreads friends
Shelves: fiction, truthiness
I've been stewing for days on how many stars to give this book. I wanted to give it 3.5, but goodreads doesn't give you that option.
Why, you ask, was this such a quandary?
Stuff that puts it in the fours column: unique voices, fun time-bending, I learned stuff about Shakespeare (he was a Catholic?!), Winfield does a good job keeping the plot moving, one of the best-written sex scenes I've ever read (mind you, I don't read a lot of smut)
Stuff that puts it in the threes column: grad student living
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Rhonda
I sent this to Jess Winfield at his website today:

Subject: So Good I Read It Twice!

More slowly the second time, of course, because my initial reaction to My Name is Will as fast vacation reading went something like Whoa! What just happened here? Was that Something? etc. I wasn’t entirely sure it was, but the suspicion grew.

So I read it again, and sure enough, your book really is that good. Your reach and your grasp are, almost miraculously, one. You really do get it all done—and more each time
...more
Ken
Aug 24, 2008 Ken rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Shakespeare fans and grad students.
My Name is Will presents a parallel narrative in alternating chapters. One story line follows Willie Shakespeare Greenburg, a slacker, pothead graduate student at California-Santa Cruz as he (sort of) works on his master's thesis which will advance the thesis, based on one line of one sonnet, that Shakespeare was Catholic.

The second story line follows William Shakespeare as he negotiates the difficulties of growing up in his parents' home, reflects on the Catholicism of his mother's family and t
...more
Julia
Aug 20, 2008 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers, English teachers, Shakespeare teachers, readers, actors, directors, humans
If I had the option of more than five stars, this novel would have them. This is a unique pleasure!
This delightful novel has two Shakespeares narrating: UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg in 1982 who is attempting to do everything but write his Master’s Thesis on the Bard and 18 year old William Shakespeare of Stratford- upon- Avon in 1582 who is stuck teaching Latin and trying to avoid those who would hurt him for being a Catholic. Greenberg gets the odd chapters and Shakes
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Sarah
It's fitting that I picked up this novel after finishing Hamlet in Purgatory. Both are concerned with Shakespeare's religious affiliations, but other than that, could not be more different. It helped, though, to have my memory jogged by Greenblatt's analysis of Catholicism in medieval and Elizabethan England. It prepared me for the rip-roaring ride between the two Will Shakespeares that author Jess Winfield creates here: the playwright and Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a man who understands litt ...more
Gaby
Synopsis:

Set simultaneously in California in 1986 and in England in 1582, My Name is Will introduces us to two young William Shakespeares.

Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a graduate student in UC Santa Cruz, hasn't been focused on his thesis on William Shakespeare. Instead, he occupies himself with drugs, women, and agrees to deliver a large psychedelic mushroom to a client at a Renaissance Fair. While evading DEA operatives, Willie juggles his longtime girl friend in UC Berkeley, his sexy teaching
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Elizabeth
While this is fairly impressive as a debut novel from writer Jess Winfield, I had a hard time connecting to the characters. Winfield alternates between a contemporary grad student names Willy Shakespeare and the Bard himself in Elizabethan Stratford, England. I thought this was effective at the outset of the novel, but it quickly made me feel at loose ends with both Shakespeare characters. Winfield, however, does an excellent job of portraying the original Shakespeare and the world he lived in, ...more
Jeremy Stephens


This was another one of those books that I've never heard of yet nonetheless seemed to leap off the shelf at me. It was well worth reading and afterwords made me ask myself, why don't more people know about this book.
I like how this book depicts Shakespeare as he very well could have been- a wild young womanizer struggling in the academic world. When compared to his conteperary counterpart, "Willie" in the book, shakespeare seems more realistic. He's less of a sort of romantic poet type and mo
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Carrie
Just finished this one in one afternoon. Very quick read. I loved the time shifting and all of the tidbits of Shakespeare's world. The language is raw at times and visually stunning. It gave me a renewed interest in Shakespeare's world and the politics going on at the time. It has strains of a Catcher in the Rye of modern times, a young man's disillusionment and search for identity, with a caustic witty dialogue! Give it a try.
John
Nov 10, 2008 John rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to John by: Cory Doctorow
What I learned from this book:
* Quoting Shakespeare gets you laid inordinately often
* Being Shakespeare does as well
* Drugs do not impede sexual performance
* Opportunities occur: seize them

Finally, the fault lies most certainly in ourselves.

This book was written with verve, panache, style and wit. It's light, easy-to-read, and quite a bit of fun. And it's even better if you like Shakespeare.
Lauren
Alright, I'm not going to lie. This book was a little weird. Fair warning, it alternates chapters. Every other chapter is about Willie and the others are about William Shakespeare. I was not prepared for that at first and got a little confused for the first two to three chapters (requiring me to go back and re-read them once I figured out what the hell was going on).

All that aside, I liked the beginning and the end, but the middle was a little trippy and farfetched, not to mention a tad convolut
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Maria Casey
Jan 22, 2015 Maria Casey rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shakespeare superfans
Ultimate Reading Challenge 2015 No. 31 - A Book With Bad Reviews

There's a reason this book has bad reviews, and that is because it's like marmite. Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Similar can be said for Shakespeare, you either love his work or you hate it and have no interest whatsoever. I am in the second category, for both marmite and Shakespeare.

I physically don't think it's possible to enjoy this book if you are not a Shakespeare superfan. Every second chapter is from his POV, and t
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Linda I
This is a sometimes amusing, yet rather pointless story. If you're a diehard fan of Shakespeare it might have more significance. Mostly the story juxtaposes Shakespeare and Willie's lives as both come-of-age in a world full of drugs, persecution and lust.
AJ LeBlanc
Crazy, funny, original... a fantastic book. It was a great pairing with Christopher Moore's Fool, which happened completely by accident.
Amanda
This is my all time favorite book. If you enjoy Shakespeare and distorted truths you will certainly enjoy this book.
Alexandra
I read this because it was the book picked by Mondy for March's Writer and the Critic podcast, on which I was the guest (which is full of spoilers for the book). It's kinda my sort of book... and kinda really not.

I am a Shakespeare Fan. I love me some Bard. Not the comedies, though; I love the tragedies and the histories. Oh, and Much Ado, but that's a whole 'nother story (one involving Kenneth and Emma and Ben Elton and Michael Keaton and Keanu...). So, a book that alternates chapters about Wil
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Grad School Mommy
Yeah, this one didn't work for me. I had been eager to read this novel -- partly because I'm interested in historical fiction as a genre, but I know next-to-nothing about Shakespearean history, and partly because I am intrigued by plots that engage representations of graduate school (as a grad student myself). But I found this novel too contrived -- and somewhat amateurish in the ways that the author tried so hard to manuever between the Elizabethan age and northern California in the indulgent l ...more
Jason
The subtitle to this book is "A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare." That's about as accurate a description as I think you can get.

It is relatively well-written, though some of the descriptive passages felt a little forced. I thought that Winfield navigates the time flip (alternating chapters follow two distinct timelines) very well. The stories parallel each other enough to make sense, but not so much as to be repetitive. I think the flipping is useful as well in building some suspense, since
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Lisa
Closer to a 3.7 but not quite a full four, "My Name is Will" might very well hold up in court as evidence of author Jess Winfield's schizophrenia. "Will" shuffles back and forth in time and space between two characters of the same name, Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon and the considerably less-accomplished 1980's campus-stoner Willie Shakespeare Greenberg. But it is the writing itself rather than the plot that has the real split-personality: so wonderfully written, well researched, and human ...more
Bill
This entertaining little adventure was written by a founding member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, creators of the dementedly brilliant The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged, which I first experienced in a performance by one of my sons and two of his friends sometime during the end of the last century (late 90s). This new novel tells the parallel stories of William Shakespeare Greenburg (Willie), and William Shakespeare himself. Willie, in the 1980s, is trying to finish, or ac ...more
Kelly
I am still contemplating the plot/idea of this book. I was excited to read it because of the plot synopsis I had read and because it's written by one of the founding members of The Reduced Shakespeare Company. I like that the book alternates chapter by chapter with William Shakespeare (age 18) and Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, age 26 in 1980's CA. The title of the book is true - it's all about sex and drugs - lots of it. I think too much sex actually - very gratuitous. I know that Shakespeare's ...more
Mark
I was a big fan of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare: Abridged," which Winfield was a part of. They really brought out the humor in the works and I thought that this book would follow in suit. The reality of it is more of a mixed bag.

My Name is Will tells of two Wills, one a slacker grad student and the other Shakespeare as a young man, and an odd series of events that lead them to both deliver a secret package.

The story of Will, the present day one, is comical but more of a "wow, look at me d
...more
Nicole Mohr
This book seriously chose me. It was FATE. It was summer of 2009, I rushed into a bookstore with just a few hours left before catching a flight to Florida for vacation. I always need to have a really good book on vacation -- it just doesn't feel like vacation without one -- but without much time to browse and preview books, I was afraid I was going to end up with a dud.

The cover of this book, with my beloved Bard and the intriguing title, caught me instantly. Plus, it was on a "Bestsellers" rac
...more
alex
I wanted to like this book, at first I almost did. But then I really didn't. The story rotated chapters between Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, 1980-something, and William Shakespeare, circa 1580; as the story progressed, Willie's tale began to widely detract from what could have been a pretty decent story about the original Shakespeare, a young, 18 year old Bard. Largely filled with sex and drugs (which normally I'm all about in a fun read), Willie Greenberg's story was one I just didn't care abo ...more
Gregg
The novel is a thread between two divergent stories: young Willie "Shakespeare" Greenberg, who's desperately trying to dope out a Master's thesis at Santa Cruz while getting high on mushrooms and balancing a hedonistic sex life with a putative relationship with a girlfriend at Berkely, and young "William" Shakespeare, an 18-year-old grammar teacher in Stratford upon Avon, dealing with an anti-Catholic uprising and multiple hedonistic sexual adventures of his own. Winfield switches back and forth ...more
Maria M. Elmvang
Meet Willie Shakespeare Greenberg – a struggling thesis-writer, small scale drug-user and future scholar. Meet also William Shakespeare – a womanising youth, closeted Catholic and future bard. Two men, 300 years apart in time, but joined by name and history.

My Name Is Will is the story of two Wills who have more in common than one would think at a first glance, because really – isn't it almost sacrilege to suggest that a 1986's pot-head and wanna-be thesis-writer should have anything at all in
...more
Eric
Incredibly witty and literate, and very entertaining. Jess Winfield, one of the founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and co-writer of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) - and if you know what that means, you're already impressed - knows his Shakespeare scholarship as well as his 1980's Berkley counter-culture. The book tells two similar, and sometimes entwining, narratives: one is the story of how a young student named William Shakespeare Greenberg makes sense of his lif ...more
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Finally!! 3 36 Nov 03, 2012 05:08PM  
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Jess Winfield co-founded the The Reduced Shakespeare Company, co-authored the worldwide smash hit play The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), won two Daytime Emmy Awards as a writer-producer for the Walt Disney Company, and, most recently, authored MY NAME IS WILL: A NOVEL OF SEX DRUGS AND SHAKESPEARE, a New York Times Book Review "Editor's Choice" and a California Book Awards final ...more
More about Jess Winfield...
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“Shakespeare, in some sense, helped create the modern man, didn't he, his influence is that pervasive. He held the mirror up to nature, but he also created that mirror: so the image he created is the very one we hold ourselves up to.” 2 likes
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