Happy Tuesday, everyone! Hope everyone’s weekend was good–I went on a writing retreat with a few friends, where we all sat down and worked on our WIPs during the day and went out to eat and gossip in the evening, which was wonderful fun and very productive besides. Sometimes at home it can be hard to concentrate, but when I’m accountable to people for my progress I tend to get more done. Plus spending time with friends–a bonus!

One aspect of writing that can be not-so-fun sometimes is reviews. Good, bad, wrong, right, whatever, if you’re a writer (even unpublished) you will get them. I’ve been reading a funny new book called How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche. It claims that “…Shakespeare permeates our everyday lives: from the words we speak to the teenage heartthrobs we worship to the political rhetoric spewed by the twenty-four-hour news cycle.” For instance–Shakespeare coined over 1700 words, including abstemious, accused, addiction, amazement, anchovy, assassination (and that’s just a few of the A words!). One chapter I found interesting talks about how Tolstoy hated Shakespeare, loathed him, and in fact wrote a whole book (Tolstoy on Shakespeare) about why Shakespeare was so horrible. See–everyone gets bad press sometimes….

It seems Tolstoy, when he met Chekhov (whose characters are rather Shakespearean in their complexity) “Shakespeare wrote badly, but you’re worse still!”. In his book, he had these main complaints about Shakespeare’s plays:

1) “Shakespeare’s bad technique. He finds the characters weak and spoiled. He finds the language overblown and exaggerated.”

2) “Shakespeare’s amorality.

3) “Shakespeare’s lack of religion.”

In other words, according to Marche: “Shakespeare is a messy writer in which virtue and vice are fluid and no definite conclusions about God emerge. And he is absolutely correct.” Just one of the reasons Shakespeare appeals in every time period and to all sorts of people, I suppose. “The reason we love such a messy writer, with a contingent sense of right and wrong and a vague attitude toward the ultimate meaning of the universe, is that we are messy, and the ultimate meaning of right and wrong is contingent…’It depends’ is the accurate answer to most questions…Tolstoy objected to the messiness of Shakespeare’s means and purposes.” Tolstoy also objected to the complicated endings of the plays and Shakespeare’s loose sense of time and place.

So even Shakespeare has people (even people as important as Tolstoy!) who don’t like their work. 🙂 But I definitely recommend Marche’s book, which is a lot of fun. (And I like to read both Shakespeare and Tolstoy…)

What have you been reading this week?? What are some of your favorite “messy” Shakespeare plays?