Bill & Me

     Many years ago, for reasons I do not wish to recall, I decided to write a book about Shakespeare.
     Hah! you might say.
     Harumph! you might say.
     Well might you say it.
     This fellow, after all, is one of the most-studied men in history. Professors have written books about the flowers he mentioned; the birds; his grammar; his spelling; the percentage of 11-syllable lines in his plays, over time, and what that means; the percentage of rhyming couplets in his plays, over time, and what that might mean; whether he was tricked into marrying; whether he loved his wife; whether he loved someone else; whether he was a schoolteacher, a soldier, a lawyer’s assistant, a Catholic, a deer-stealer, an unfaithful husband, an honest witness, homosexual, bisexual, the father of bastard children, the author of his plays, the author of other plays; whether he knew Greek, or Latin; whether he knew the Queen; planted a certain tree; fell asleep drunk under another tree; whether he lay with this woman or that one; gave her up willingly or unwillingly, to this guy or the other one; whether he said this, that or the other thing.
     And so on.
     It’s all interesting to me.
     Though we don’t know much about Shakespeare, we know more about him than about any other Elizabethan playwright except Ben Jonson, who was a braggart, a murderer, a self-promoter, an unpleasant man and a big pain in the ass.
     Shakespeare was not like that. Shakespeare was a gentleman. Not a gentleman as the word was defined in his day: a lucky rich guy who didn’t have to work. He was a gentleman as we define it.
     I have one thought about Shakespeare that I have not seen expressed in print – and I’ve looked.
     I can’t tell you what it is, or there goes what’s left of my life.
     But I think it’s new – or old and unexpressed – so I’m writing a book about it.
     I can tell you this, though: The reason I am devoting what’s left of my life to Shakespeare is because I do not want to devote any more of my life to the dickheads who run America today.
     The first money I ever made from writing was from investigative journalism. It was about Central America, when Ronald Reagan was president.
     I wrote about stuff that was lying open in the light of day that no one else would mention.
     I made a few hundred bucks from it, and spent my life’s savings turning it up.
     Eventually, it got me jobs on daily newspapers: as a reporter, a correspondent, an editor.
     Back then, 30 years ago, the frauds, the lies, the murders, the corruption, the cowardice of Congress and the willful ignorance of my countrymen were already obvious – to me. Why so few people, and newspapers, were writing about it was a mystery – to me.
     It’s not a mystery to me anymore.
     I don’t need to read the newspapers to find out what’s happening today: with Mitt Romney and Barack Obama; with JPMorgan Chase and the SEC; with the bankers and Congress; with homeless veterans; with the poor sons of bitches out on the streets, without homes, without jobs; with the sad children and beaten wives in homeless shelters; with what Congress is doing as it closes down the shelters.
     I know all it, and so do you.
     It’s vile. It’s nauseating. It’s all in the light of day.
     U.S. politics today is totally degraded. It’s all lies: cowardice and bullshit.
     These people – the Republican Party, above all – use language to interfere with communication.
     Yet 155 million of my fellow citizens say: Hooray!
     Four legs good! Two legs bad!
     So I am writing a book about Shakespeare. I owe this to myself, in the few years I have left.
     And if you can’t read it until after I am dead, or if you never read it, or if I never finish it, so what? It’s better than covering U.S. politics.
     It’s a pursuit of happiness.

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