✭ Shylock is my Name Books ✯ Author Howard Jacobson – Writerscompany.co.uk
Shylock is My Name is a book I have been pining to read since I heard about it And it did live up to my expectations even though it was absolutely nothing like I was expecting it to be The writing style at the beginning completely threw me It was literature than I had expected even though this is a retelling of Shakespeare, I somehow wasn t expecting it to be like that But the further I read, the I fell in love with the beautiful writing style and the story The wording was done so well and it built up the story perfectly The best thing about this novel was how thought provoking it was It does help to have read The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, because the book is based on it I was a little confused when I was trying to draw the parallels between this book and the play The storyline of Portia was clearly the same as the one of Plurabelle in this novel But Shylock s story with wanting his bond and all that occurs in The Merchant of Venice has already happened Instead of Shylock s story we are getting Strulovitch s, which cleverly twists to run parallels with Shylock s old story It was incredibly well done and I loved seeing the similarities in the retelling This one also heavily focuses on the theme of discrimination, religion, and religious culture Especially Judaism, seeing as the original play is based around this I know that the focus being on this will put off some readers, but seeing as I haven t read many books about Judaism it intrigued me all the I learned some things, and it made me think of some others You could easily replace the word Jew here with other culture titles or religions and you might even get a similar story It s amazing how well this relates to some issues present day, but to see that you ll have to do some of your own analysing I also liked that Shylock and Strulovitch were both fathers who had to raise their children alone for whatever reason It s interesting to the different approaches they take, although they both are landing in the extreme D Anton was another character I liked He seemed to simply want to play the father to everyone and be of help But sometimes it put him in difficult situations and it was so sad to see how events unfolded around him Without knowing what there was, there was quite a bit of rising suspense The outcome wasn t a mind blowing plot twist, but it wasn t what I predicted either The best way for me to describe this book would be as pleasantly surprising A gentle read but one that rested heavily on my mind I d recommend it and look forward to the next book of its nature This review and others can be found on Olivia s Catastrophe This is a book I ve wanted to read for a long time, although I didn t realize it was part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project to commission modern novelists to retell Shakespeare.Howard Jacobson has plucked forth Shylock, breathed new life into him, and given him another turn upon the stage, including a chance to finish unfinished business in Act Five In this book he appears in chilly England to help and support Simon Strulovitch, who finds himself stuck in a dilemma similar to Shylock s in A Merchant of Venice Don t get mad get even an idiom, not a quote not in the sense of a pound of flesh no way but just turning things the other way around That s what happens here Most work on antisemitic stereotypes and thinking involves exploring and setting it forth very necessary, very important, but doesn t turn things around.Two other writers I ve read who deal specifically with Shylock are Philip Roth, in Operation Shylock A Confession, and Stephen Greenblatt, in this New Yorker article Jacobson, a Shakespeare scholar before he was a novelist, knows about Shakespeare than Roth and, I think, about religion than Greenblatt They can t give as good as they get like Jacobson.Usually the effect of such work depends on shame or guilt or on instilling insight on whether the perpetrator is willing to look at himself and think and of course on whether the targeted people catch on Shylock Is My Name does not depend on shame, guilt, or insight Neither does the effect depend this time on unearthing the complexity with which Shakespeare imbued Shylock Shakespeare created Shylock out of his Christian perspective, which thanks to his genius he transcended Jacobson knows that perspective but has another So here Shylock turns the tables He can do so since now Jacobson and not only Shakespeare is fashioning him And oh do Plurabelle and D Anton, the modern day versions of Portia and Antonio, have it coming Think of it as one for the Jews.No, it won t lay Shylock to rest once and for all Yet kudos for the power of art and the might of the pen.I read this out loud at dinner That was perfect for this book How many people read books out loud any longer It probably stopped with the advent of radio.Here is a review from The Guardian that likes the book in general but rails at the caricature of the gentile characters and what they re made to exemplify But wasn t that part of the point, turn and turn about being fair play one is a little closer this one from The Washington Post is helpful f cking love this book . Firstly I am VERY glad I listened to Shylock Is My Name on audio The narrator was very English, very nicely spoken and gave emphasis to all the right words He helped me stay on track whereas left to myself I probably would have read too fast and lost the meaning.The meaning was deep, the prose very literary and at times it was very heavy However there were also times that made me smile and there were some very beautiful passages Of course no one does it quite like Shakespeare himself and Shylock beginning The quality of mercy is not strained speech was an absolute and unexpected delight.I am enjoying this Hogarth Shakespeare series overall but some of the books are entertaining than others This one is undoubtedly very good but enjoyable would not be a word to apply to it It was interesting, even fascinating at times and extremely well written but some application was required to actually read it Recommended for lovers of Shakespeare especially if you have already read The Merchant of Venice DNF 43% I d read Jacobson s three most recent novels and liked them all well enough He s certainly your go to author if you want a witty discussion of the modern Jewish persecution complex I think the problem with this one was that I wasn t sure what it wanted to be a contemporary Jewish novel, or a Hebrew fable, or some mixture thereof Shylock is pretty much dropped in as is from The Merchant of Venice, so it s unclear whether he s Strulovitch s hallucination though others also seem to see him or a time traveler or what The exasperated father characters are well drawn, but their flighty daughters less so I just got to a point where I didn t care at all what happened next, which to me was the sign to give up and move on to something else.I must say, I m pretty disappointed so far with the Hogarth Shakespeare updates Jeanette Winterson s The Gap of Time was alright in places, but not all that compelling I have an advanced copy of Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler on my Kindle, though, so I m willing to keep trying the series I ve never read The Merchant of Venice and am only basically familiar with the storyline of The Taming of the Shrew I saw one production, but it was about 12 years ago , so it will be interesting to see whether knowledge of the play enhances my appreciation or vice versa. In Shakespeare S The Merchant Of Venice, Merchant Antonio Borrows From The Jewish Moneylender Shylock, To Help Fund His Friend Bassanio S Wooing Of The Beautiful, Prized Portia Antonio, Who Makes No Attempt To Hide His Loathing Of Shylock, Usury And Everything Jewish, Must Promise In Return A Bond Of A Pound Of His Own Flesh Should He Not Be Able To Repay The Debt When Antonio S Ships Are Lost At Sea, It Becomes Clear He Won T Be Able To Service His Debt The Case Is Heard At Court Antonio Must Honour His Promise Until An Unknown Lawyer Arrives, Talking Of Mercy, And Picks The Case Apart.Howard Jacobson Takes Shakespeare S Great Tale Of Vengeance And Cruelty And Propels It Through Space And Time To The Shiny Modern World Of Cheshire S Golden Triangle We Start Off In A Cemetery, Where A Fedora D Shylock Is Tending To His Wife Leah S Grave From There, We Meet A Funny, Confrontational, Original Cast Of Characters Very Much From Our Own World, Who Also Embody And Confront Some Of Shakespeare S Most Urgent Questions And Themes. Great book equally thought provoking, challenging and entertaining It certainly helps if you have at least some familiarity and understanding of Shakespeare s The Merchant of Venice and I suspect those of us who don t, might be find this book somewhat perplexing to say the least Whilst I am no expert, having seen MOV several times certainly helped me to understand and get the most out of this book.Whilst I do agree with some reviewers that the Strulovich Shylock passages are stronger than those concerning Plurabell D Anton the difference is however by no means as marked as some reviewers would have it I am a great lover of the plays of Shakespeare watching not reading them and certainly agree with some reviewers that this book enhances, broadens and deepens understanding and appreciation of the original play as well as the character and possible motivations of Shylock.My advice is to go and see the play brilliant although troubling and challenging as it may be to a contemporary audience at least once and then read the Jacobson book definitely not the other way round. Edit 28 February I m dropping this rating down to one star because I m still angry at it.Shylock Is My Name is Howard Jacobson s addition to the Hogarth Shakespeare series, and I felt it to be such a let down after reading Jeanette Winterson s The Gap of Time I read Jacobson s J last year and was disappointed in it in similar ways as I am disappointed in this one While he can write, Jacobson is very disjointed in his writing, as if he is showing off to us plebs how smart, how intelligent, how verbose, how white, how upper class, and in this case how Jewish he is and therefore how much better he is than the rest of us I can t help but wonder if this is one of those books that are written for men, about men, and by men that us helpless females are too different fundamentally to understand what it s all about.In this case, this is Jacobson s rendition of Shakespeare s The Merchant of Venice I have vague recollections of reading this play and finding Shylock interesting, but this novel didn t seem to capture the Shakespeare essence as I felt Winterson s retelling did.What I disliked about this novel is the consistent and sexually charged current of a father obsessed with what enters his daughter s vagina Yes Literally I don t recall that interpretation made of Shakespeare s play, so it caught me off guard.In chapter eight, Strulovitch comments on his daughter, Beatrice It had been going on a long time She was thirteen when it started Thirteen in fact, twenty three in appearance Luscious A Levantine princess A pomegranate She was luscious to herself, too He had caught her looking at her reflection in the mirror once, pouting her lips and laughing at her own fullness, smoothing her thighs, pushing out her breasts, amused by the too muchness but overwhelmed by it at the same time As though it imposed a responsibility on her Was this really her Was this really hers to do with as she chose Of course she had to deploy herself Of course she had to feel her beauty had a purpose beyond her own gaze and, yes because she knew he tailed her, knew he followed her into her own bedroom even beyond his It continues throughout the novel with Strulovitch thinking about whether or not he should find his daughter attractive He also, through the entire length of the novel, considers the utmost importance of his existence was to make sure that the penis that enters her vagina is circumcised and importantly Jewish so that Beatrice is not banished from her family Strulovitch is incredibly abusive in all ways to his young daughter in the way that many fanatic religious believers are As her father, he believes he controls her entirely, from her day to day life to her private, sexual life When she doesn t listen to him, he goes off and throws a tantrum, demanding that pivotal pound of flesh.In all, I think because I am not both male and Jewish, I miss the point of this self reflexive novel It brings to the forefront questions of Jewish morality in the modern age and whether or not the honest Jew should bend to the modern ways or be rigid as tradition dictates And where The Merchant of Venice is argue as anti semitic, I wonder if Jacobson s novel is meant to be a mirror to it of sorts as it is constantly questioning the role of Jewishness in society where Merchant did not.And where the play is unsympathetic toward Jewish people, this novel is unsympathetic toward women It s incredibly misogynistic in a way that s uncomfortable and anger inducing Men do not own women and should absolutely never control the expression of a woman s sexuality, no matter what age or relation But alas I don t think Jacobson works for me, and I don t think I ll read anything of his in the future.This book was provided to me for my honest review by Blogging for Books. This is an intelligent, informed and brilliantly written engagement with Merchant it approaches the play thematically rather than strictly following the plot line although there s lots of that, too and manages to be both inside and outside the play at the same time In a bold move, Jacobson has his own modern Jewish protagonist with a troublesome daughter meet Shylock yes,that Shylock in a local cemetery where he s speaking to his long dead wife Leah, and takes him home The two men bond over what to do with Jewish daughters, how to deal with lost wives, and discuss what it means to be Jewish in a transhistorical way The other half of the book offers a modern update on the Portia Antonio Bassanio plot and makes lots of lovely knowing gestures the unpleasant edge to all these characters, their vapid and sometimes deliberate prejudices, the triangular nature of their relationship Jacobson s writing is wonderful, sometimes sparkling, sometimes diamond hard and vicious What he has done here is to bring the humour back to the story, something that has become increasingly difficult in relation to the original play for post Holocaust generations though contemporary Israeli theatre companies have done a fine job with this issue His take is acutely informed by modern scholarship but it s done in a subtle and unobtrusive way I especially liked the moments when Shylock is interrogated about his intentions in the play, a nice way of hooking this back to the original while still maintaining a critical distance This is my first Jacobson and I loved loved his affinity with language, the way he chooses his lexicon with precision and attention to nuance, and the playful texture this gives to the book I found the first half of the story brilliantly engaging and couldn t stop reading it the second half slows down, becomes a bit muddled and laboured as it struggles with the pound of flesh, the transaction of the rings all the same an excellent response to, reception of, and re writing of Shakespeare s play to both bring out its modern relevance and to send us back to the original with another perspective. This book really made me laugh I don t often laugh out loud at books, especially not on a plane surrounded by strangers But I did while reading this.I have read reviews that complain of Jacobson showing off in this book, that seem to think it is just about the author showing how well he thinks he can write and how clever he is I didn t get any of that as I read it But I did laugh a lot.It might help that I am British and there s an element of the traditional English farce It might help that the action takes place about 5 miles away from where I grew up so I can picture the scenery etc But it made me laugh.I read the original just before I read this Now I am in a trap I might never escape this novel made me want to re visit the play as I think I will get out of the Shakespeare version having read the Jacobson version But I am fairly convinced that re reading the play would make me want to re read the book, which would make me want to go back to the play, which wouldDid I mention it made me laugh Strulovitch found his guest in the garden when he woke It was still early And Cold He was wearing his overcoat, with a black scarf over his shoulders to Strulovitch s eye not unlike a prayer shawl and was sitting on his Glyndebourne stool talking to Leah A few remaining droplet of dew sequinned the lawn, lighting him up from below like footlights.Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, I read this re imagining of the Merchant of Venice in a contemporary setting, over 10 sittings, neither enjoying nor disliking it Hard to relate to the main characters, two Jews, meeting in a cemetery in the North west of England in winter, where Strulovitch is attending the grave of his mother, Shylock talking to his late wife and soul mate, Leah Both fathered daughters Beatrice, Jessica who have moved away from the faith to live with Gentiles For some reason Strulovitch invites Shylock back to his house, where his own wife is bedridden following a stroke that has left her a semi vegetable For much of the book the two men ruminate on what it means to be JewishWe had a chance at a Homeland and we blew it Belonging was never what the Jews were good at anyway Being a stranger is what we do It s the diaspora, they are at pains to assure me that brings out the best in us Which neatly sidesteps the question of what brings out the best in them Eventually 16 year old Beatrice arrives home and meets Shylock, with the usual indifference of teenagers, but Strulovitch is agitatedStrulovitch was ashamed of himself There s something not right somewhere, he thought, when a father can t see his daughter in the company of another man without envisioning foul play No worries there Beatrice is intent on running away to Venice with her footballer boyfriend, Gratan, who has been married at least twice before The lovers were introduced by socialite Plurabelle, who hosts a TV reality show between cosmetic surgeries, and her confident D Anton D Anton introduced Plurabelle to a handsome mechanic, Barnaby, the epitome of uncertain youth.What saves it from crassness is the lyrical phasing, which I could only take in in short bursts, and the theme seemed to drag, Jewish jokes aside, for 200 pages and 23 chapters, until we come to Act V Strulovitch is determined to get his pound of flesh from the unsuitable Gratan for sleeping with his daughter while she was technically underage, and accepts D Anton as a substitute Shylock delivers a powerful argument on the virtue of mercy, which Strulovitch ignores, only to be outwitted by D AntonHe wondered if Shylock were feeling much what he felt now Knowing his words had all been for nothing It wasn t just that there was no victory to be had it was that there was no victory worth having Victory and defeat were alike absurd.But the most thought provoking lines are left until towards the end Action had stopped arbitrarily for Shylock, but time hadn t Time had embalmed him.