Monday, November 28, 2011
"Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor."
I find myself facing a fascinating, if not frustrating conundrum. How can it be that my long-languishing mystery-thriller about the Shakespeare authorship (writing as John Underwood) has been published in six different languages variously titled The Shakespeare Chronicles, A Thief for All Time, and A Tiger's Heart and yet not in my own native language or country? Salmon Rushdie comes to mind, of course, as well as Solzhenitsyn. And for that matter Copernicus, Giordano Bruno and Galileo weren't exactly rock stars in Rome either. But now, it seems, I am. Well, not quite a rock star, but pretty close. I now have a bestseller in Italy, a book that has been rejected for nearly a decade in my home country.
So what's up with that? Just as the Shakespeare academics always dismiss those who doubt the Bard's credentials (or, actually, lack thereof) as cranks or merely uninformed, so has been this author banned for daring to question the world's most lofty and cherished literary deity as, well, a fake? And yet have we not heard this story before? The movie Anonymous, borrowing on my premise of Shakespeare as a fraud is the first film to dare to challenge the orthodoxy, and got pretty well hammered for doing so. And while I agree with Roland Emmerich's plot line only to the extent that it wasn't Shakespeare, it has become readily apparent that it's a lot easier to question Jesus (or at least Mary Magdalen) in the English-speaking world, than to question Shakespeare. Even though, as Derek Jacobi so eloquently puts it in the prologue to John Orloff's screenplay (as borrowed from Mark Twain and as Ben Jonson wrote:) "The man lacked art." Or an education, or even a book, for that matter.
Not that that matters. We live in an age now in which the loudest voice, or the most heavily armored authority, or the most well-heeled hypemeisters rule not only the air waves, but pretty much the whole damn whole roost. Including the publishing world. Not that they haven't done so for millennia, but still... So it is that whenever anyone presents a book on the subject of the Bard to an American or U.K. publisher, the first thing their editors seem to do is run the manuscript past the biblical authorities for signs of heresy, and these 'experts,' whom my soon-to-be dead character Desmond Lewis calls 'the Ayatollahs of Academe,' render judgement, always negative, just like the Bishops and Torquemadas of old. And this, mind you, in the land of 'freedom and opportunity' and our much-oppressed 'First Amendment.'
Even Rushdie found a home in Great Britain. I am still waiting for my invitation. Or publisher with the courage of an Emmerich (who lives safely in Germany), to question authority.
As to my own book, without giving away the plot, let me make one thing clear: it wasn't Oxford!