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Joel Karpowitz has commented on (16) products.

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
The Serpent of Venice

Joel Karpowitz, March 21, 2015

Moore does it again. The fool (of King Lear fame) Pocket shows up again, this time in Venice for a comic journey through Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and the Cask of Amontillado (plus some supernatural shenanigans to boot (after all, there's always a bloody ghost). Moore's comic sensibility remains sharp, slightly off color, and always funny, and his characters seem like caricatures until he finds ways to work in genuine pathos. It's a balancing act that rewards both lovers of silliness and lovers of Shakespeare. It all makes me wonder--and look forward to--where Pocket will turn up next.
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The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
The Serpent of Venice

Joel Karpowitz, March 21, 2015

Moore does it again. The fool (of King Lear fame) Pocket shows up again, this time in Venice for a comic journey through Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and the Cask of Amontillado (plus some supernatural shenanigans to boot (after all, there's always a bloody ghost). Moore's comic sensibility remains sharp, slightly off color, and always funny, and his characters seem like caricatures until he finds ways to work in genuine pathos. It's a balancing act that rewards both lovers of silliness and lovers of Shakespeare. It all makes me wonder--and look forward to--where Pocket will turn up next.
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The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Family Fang

Joel Karpowitz, November 16, 2014

I really loved this book. It's all about identity and art and creativity and family and the chaos and ambiguity and comedy and tragedy that are a part of all of those things. It's funny and bittersweet and heart-breaking and hopeful all at the same time, which is a pretty neat trick to pull off. Buster and Annie are characters I wanted to spend more time with, not because they are perfect, but because they felt so human in the bad choices and confusion they find themselves facing. The novel's structure, alternating between the "present" and gallery-like explanations of the Fangs' prior performance art pieces strikes just the right tone. I'm excited to see what Wilson writes next.
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Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Wolf in White Van

Joel Karpowitz, October 26, 2014

The Mountain Goats' lead singer John Darnielle creates a recursive exploration of fantasy, obsession, empathy, and pain. He asks us to consider why we do the things we do, and why sometimes the gaps in our lives seem unexplainable and need something--anything--to fill them. You stand in a field, your sights set on the Italian Trace. But what if you can never make it there? And what will be the cost if you do?
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Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent Lives) by Bill Bryson
Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent Lives)

Joel Karpowitz, April 14, 2014

If you're looking for a beginner's intro to Shakespeare's life, this is a great place to begin. Less "academic" than Greenblatt's also-fine Will in the World and anchored by Bryson's pleasant voice, this slim volume provides a just-the-facts approach to what we know (and don't know) about the most influential author to ever live. Bryson enjoys the "details"--how many signatures we have of Shakespeare's, where they can be found, what an appearance at court might or might not tell us--but he doesn't get bogged down in speculation, and he has a very low tolerance for those who want to spin out great biographies from making assumptions based on the content of the plays themselves. Bryson is instead content to point out where the plays seem to line up with what we know, and where perhaps they raise surprising questions. As with all his texts, he does not rely on histrionics or emotional appeals, but rather walks you through the author's life with a calm and slightly sardonic tone.

Incidentally, I was pleased that the last chapter is basically a pointed rejection of the "Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare" theories that seem to be so prominent these days. I have little interest in the snobbish arguments that the Oxfordians and others seem to make, and I appreciated Bryson's wry rejection of those pointless theories. There's enough in the historical record to make a man, and there's enough in the plays and poems themselves to make a living and thinking and feeling human. Getting caught up in the silliness of "yes, but which human" seems to miss the point of what makes the plays so powerful.
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