Stalking Shakespeare: A Memoir of Madness, Murder, and My Search for the Poet Beneath the Paint

S. & S. Audio. Apr. 2023. 7:35 hrs. ISBN 9781797144085. $17.99. BIOG
In this absorbing memoir, essayist and novelist Durkee (The Last Taxi Driver) recounts his obsessive search for an authentic, true-to-life painted portrait of Shakespeare. Is it his imagination, or are portraits of the Bard getting prettier by the century? At loose ends in Vermont after a divorce, Durkee devotes several long winters to scrutinizing prospective portraits and unashamedly pummeling librarians, museum curators, and Shakespeare scholars with his questions and photo requests. Neither a Shakespeare scholar nor an art historian, Durkee hopes his outsider status will help him avoid the preconceptions that seem to plague many Shakespeare devotees when discussing the true identity (identities?) of the author of some of the world’s most beloved poetry and dramas. Despite the painstakingly detailed descriptions of his research, the narrative flows easily, thanks to Durkee’s snappy prose and wry, self-deprecating sense of humor, perfectly captured in audio by narrator Matt Godfrey. Godfrey also employs a compassionate tone, conveying Durkee’s vulnerability and engendering much empathy for the single-minded researcher, especially when he reveals his battles with addiction.
VERDICT Anyone with an interest in the Shakespeare author controversy or academic research in general should enjoy Durkee’s colorful account of dark winters spent obsessing over “his homespun collection” of “mugshot bards.”
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