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My Name is Will

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  972 Ratings  ·  207 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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Terence
Jun 24, 2009 Terence rated it really liked it
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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Gerald
Apr 26, 2016 Gerald rated it it was amazing
It's something of a subgenre in historical novels these days where the main character bilocates between today and yesteryear. Imagine Will Shakespeare living in the Hippie era, smoking pot, poking around the Santa Cruz and Berkeley campuses, and trying to avoid trouble but habitually falling into it. And then there was that other guy, in the literally stinking times of Elizabethan England, who it seemed couldn't catch a break, not least because his wayward Willie kept impregnating the locals.

An
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will
Jan 13, 2009 will rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
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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Idril Celebrindal
Sep 24, 2015 Idril Celebrindal rated it it was ok
God, the 1980s character was so unlikeable. Another one of those "completely boring, unwashed"--I'm being literal here--"always-stoned, personality-free guys who somehow has dozens of hot women want to bang him" that men write and seem to think are clever. And how dare his dad pay for his tuition, room, and meal plan and not also give him money for the drugs he spends literally all his time doing?! I wish there was a joke here that I was missing, that the author didn't expect me to sympathize wi ...more
Ross
Sep 24, 2009 Ross rated it really liked it
"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 really liked it
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
...more
John
Nov 10, 2008 John rated it really liked it
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.
Sarah
Apr 09, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Rhonda
Aug 19, 2008 Rhonda rated it it was amazing
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
Mark
May 11, 2010 Mark rated it it was ok
Shelves: humor, historical
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
Gaby
Jul 27, 2009 Gaby rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs, reviewed-books
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
...more
Ken
Aug 24, 2008 Ken rated it liked it
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 it was amazing
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
...more
Judith
Mar 14, 2010 Judith rated it did not like it
The NYT had such a cute review of this book, and I am a big fan of Shakespeare, not to mention sex and drugs. However, I found this book tedious and could not force my way to the end. The book presents in alternating chapters a period of time in the life of William Shakespeare, as seen through the eyes of the bard himself, and a college student working on his graduate thesis based on Shakespeare as a persecuted Catholic and how that affected the Elizabethan theatre. Not such a bad idea, but it d ...more
Shannon
Mar 28, 2010 Shannon rated it did not like it
Shelves: hated
Apparently I can't give something zero stars. This book is drivel. It starts out promisingly enough, but never rises about mediocre before crash landing in a Port-O-Potty. The modern day main character is a lying, cheating, drug-addled wannabe academic unashamedly wasting his parents money while putting forth zero effort in his life. Yet he manages to find no less than sex with his stepmom, sex on a bus, a threesome AND an orgy - none of which involve his girlfriend. In one book! At the end, app ...more
Elizabeth
Mar 22, 2009 Elizabeth rated it liked it
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
Dec 29, 2009 Jeremy Stephens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2009


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
Dec 23, 2009 Carrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Aug 17, 2009 AJ LeBlanc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crazy, funny, original... a fantastic book. It was a great pairing with Christopher Moore's Fool, which happened completely by accident.
Amanda
May 15, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This is my all time favorite book. If you enjoy Shakespeare and distorted truths you will certainly enjoy this book.
Matt Ranlett
Oct 05, 2016 Matt Ranlett marked it as to-read
Shelves: abandoned
I gave up - ran out of time with my library check out. The first third didn't grab me enough to go pick it back up.
alex
Jan 21, 2013 alex rated it it was ok
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
Alexandra
Mar 16, 2011 Alexandra rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
...more
Nicole Mohr
Feb 13, 2013 Nicole Mohr rated it it was amazing
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
Brian
Jan 12, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it
"My Name is Will" is a fast paced romp through the intertwining lives of two Will Shakespeares. One a grad student in the 1980s, and one the "real deal". Refreshingly this novel is not a critical study of the Bard. I enjoyed it for its damned determination to make Shakespeare human. (The many jabs aimed at the theory of New Criticism were appreciated by this reader.)
The novel's two main protagonists have their stories told in alternating chapters, and the switching point of view is easy to follo
...more
Maria Elmvang
May 11, 2008 Maria Elmvang rated it really liked it
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
Jason
Jul 16, 2009 Jason rated it liked it
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
...more
Gregg
Jul 21, 2008 Gregg rated it really liked it
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
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
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Finally!! 2 37 Sep 05, 2011 06:25AM  
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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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