Well, I started the year off with a whimper. This book was glowingly recommended to me by a good friend who has led me in the past to some good stuff, so I jumped on it. I was disappointed, but the let-down was actually a little freeing, because I had just started another book she recommended, and my disappointment in Taking What I Like allowed me to give myself permission to put the other one down.*
This is a book of short stories tied together thematically in the loosest way by all being based on a Shakespeare play, set in the same world as a Shakespeare play, or re-homing characters from a Shakespeare play. It’s uneven in tone, and overly cutesy at times, or pointed at others. It’s not subtle. It’s disorganized. And in a world in which so many authors (Christopher Moore, Ann-Marie MacDonald, and Tom Stoppard come to mind in this exact moment) crush the “Shakespearean reboot” game so thoroughly that they make it look easy, this stands out as too flawed to be worth the time.
I was particularly disappointed by the reboots of the texts I know best: Othello, As You Like It, Hamlet, which was a particularly egregious story because it also played off of the “This American Life” story about Shakespeare in prisons, a story that I absolutely adored when it aired; in Taking What I Like, this was such a disorganized story that I couldn’t keep track of the various threads Bamber kept stranding. But the texts I didn’t know so well (Antony & Cleopatra has always been a “meh” for me) couldn’t really keep my attention, either, because I didn’t have much base knowledge to prop me up and keep me interested.
Too bad, because this had a lot of promise, and I have been known to love a solid riff on Shakespeare. This just isn’t worth the time.
*I’ll pick it up again, because I’m a completionist.