This post comes from our bookseller Christine.
Okay, I admit it. When I saw the advanced reading copy of Jillian Keenan’s memoir on our buyer’s bookshelf, I picked it up because of the title: Sex with Shakespeare. This struck me at first as quite brazen, and a bit of risk-taking—let’s face it, the title will cause its share of tittering and giggling. Some might be offended by the title—suppression of the sexual aspects of Shakespeare’s works has been ongoing from the beginning, after all. I also wondered about the author Jillian Keenan. Her name was not familiar to me. While medieval studies was the focus of my MA in English, interest and love of the Bard and his works made that choice a difficult decision. My curiosity was further piqued by the subtitle, Here’s Much to Do with Pain, but More with Love, and by the book’s label as a memoir. Part of me was skeptical, most of me intrigued. After all, I could always put it down if I didn’t like it.
I couldn’t put it down.
At times, I didn’t quite agree with some of her readings of the plays. However, Keenan is upfront about her lens and that her lens is not the only one through which to read Shakespeare’s works. While I don’t want to give too much detail about her approach to the plays, their themes, and her interaction with certain of the Bard’s characters, her lens brings compassion and understanding to not only to those characters, but also to those who are frequently marginalized and ridiculed still in 21st-century culture. One does not need to be familiar with the canon of Shakespearean studies—Keenan shares her expertise and thoughts openly and straightforwardly, connecting them to her own life and journey.
Quite frankly, it is one of the best books I’ve read yet this year. Keenan’s work, and her vulnerability, broke all my pre-reading expectations and touched my soul, my liver, and for many reasons I will not share here, I feel a kindred spirit in Keenan. Her words on narrative as she introduced herself resonated with me as a writer and a lover of narrative.
Sex with Shakespeare is an engaging book with subtle depths. I’m hoping I’ll be lucky to meet her one day.