Picks and Pans Review: Shakespeare's Dog

updated 07/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Leon Rooke

Shakespearians, beware. This novel, told from the point of view of the Bard's best friend, is only incidentally concerned with the life and writings of the Swan of Avon. Close readers will find resonant word choices and carefully used historical facts, but the book describes Shakespeare's tempestuous domestic situation (lots of fights and love-making with wife Anne Hathaway) only as it directly affects his canine cohort, Hooker, the narrator. The point of view creates effective comic situations, as Hooker repeatedly rails at his master for blindly accepting such Elizabethan societal conventions as its rigid class structure. Will just wants to let the sleeping dogmas of Renaissance England lie. Who but a privileged pet could call the divine scribbler "an insipid supercilious insensitive puke"? At its worst, the book is anachronistic (modern American slang in the mouth of a British country cur). But at its best, it is a four-legged frolic through a vividly imagined and well-researched Stratford-upon-Avon, where Hooker does such things as rescue Shakespeare from drowning. This frail bark should not float by unnoticed. (Knopf, $10.95)

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