mercredi 6 août 2014

Collecting Shakespeare by Stephen H. Grant

When the Folger Shakespeare Library opened in Washington D.C. in 1932 (on the Bard’s birthday) it housed an amazing number of First Folios, even more books and manuscripts, and even included an Elizabethan Theatre. All of this came together thanks to the tireless, almost obsessive collecting of an American couple – Henry and Emily Folger. The purchase, collection and storage of all sorts of items about Shakespeare and his era became the centre piece of their marriage, financed with the fortune Henry accumulated as president of the Standard Oil Company, where he worked with John D. Rockefeller Sr. In Collecting Shakespeare, Stephen H Grant recounts the story of this amazing couple, whose love for Shakespeare was only eclipsed by their love for one another…

I really wanted to like Collecting Shakespeare. A non-fiction book about book collecting at the turn of the century? Revolving around the collection of works about and by William Shakespeare? Collected by a man who lived and worked with one of the business moguls of the period? It seemed to be right up my alley. Unfortunately, it was a big disappointment. Stephen Grant lets the subject matter down with unexciting, ponderous prose, which leaches all of the fun out of what could have been an intriguing slice of turn of the century history. Considering the world of book collecting and the rivalries that Grant gets into, as well as Folger’s place in a world of oil and corruption that caused him to be brought up on charges more than once, this could have been great, exciting narrative history if in the hands of an Erik Larson or a Paul Collins. Unfortunately, in Collecting Shakespeare we get a simple, dry enumeration of events, one that at times follows a linear timeline and at other times jumps about in a more thematic view. This makes for a messy narrative that is not easy to follow. All in all, a disappointing treatment of an interesting subject. 

I gave Collecting Shakespeare 2 stars.

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