One of the joys of reading is the opportunity to occasionally
discover a book that is so personally inspiring and entertaining
that one hopes it will never come to an end. ME AND SHAKESPEARE by
Herman Gollob is that type of a book. If war is too important to be
left to generals then Shakespeare is too important to be taught to
young readers. Sadly, most people experience the great plays of
William Shakespeare when they are simply neither sufficiently
mature nor sophisticated to appreciate their value. As a result,
when they reach an age of maturity to appreciate "The Bard" they
are not inclined to pursue that intellectual endeavor. For anyone
who has made that return visit to "Hamlet," "Macbeth," "Measure for
Measure," or any Shakespeare play, ME AND SHAKESPEARE, is a book to
savor. It is the personal memoir of a man who late in his life
discovered the love, knowledge, and joy of William Shakespeare.
Along the way the author discovers something about himself, his
life, and his career in publishing. It is a remarkable journey told
by a brilliant writer that is quite simply a delight to read.
Herman Gollob, by his own description, is a Texas Jew educated at
Texas A & M and then transplanted to New Jersey to begin a
career in editing and publishing. That profession would last for 35
years. Along the way, Gollob also experienced a spiritual epiphany
that led him back to a religious awakening. By his own admission,
Gollob's family believed in Jewishness but not in Judaism. All of
this changed for Gollob when, in his mid 50s, he attended the bar
mitzvah of a colleague's 13-year-old son. The event stirred in
Gollob a desire to educate himself in the religious aspect of his
Jewish identity. These studies culminated in his own bar mitzvah at
the age of 58. Perhaps, just as in the plot of a great play, these
events also foreshadowed the next major event in Gollob's
In 1995, as Gollob faced retirement, he attended a Broadway
performance of "Hamlet," starring Ralph Fiennes. Like many of us,
Gollob had acquired a minimal exposure to Shakespeare during
college and after his graduation he had attended the occasional
performance of a Shakespeare play. The Fiennes "Hamlet" changed his
life. As he immediately reveled in the experience and shared it
with his friends, he began an educational journey that would
transform him into a Shakespearean scholar. He became an "old man
made mad by love of Shakespeare." He channeled this fresh passion
into a teaching position at Caldwell College in New Jersey where,
at the age of 67, he began teaching Shakespeare to adults over 50.
As he shares his teaching experiences with the reader, Gollob shows
clearly that his love of Shakespeare is surpassed only by his
willingness to share that love with others.
The joy of ME AND SHAKESPEARE comes from multiple sources. As a
writer, Gollob makes the journey from discovery to final
achievement a story that is entertaining and addictive. To
complement the saga of his Shakespearean education he interweaves
tales of his personal experiences in the entertainment industry
with many well-known actors and writers. He reminds us of the power
of learning and teaching and, most importantly, that we are never
too old to do either. Best of all is the wealth of material that
Gollob provides for anyone who has any desire to learn more about
Shakespeare and his plays. We learn about the Folger Library in
Washington, DC, scholars such as Harold Goddard and Northrop Frye,
and countless other sources to help us better understand the
greatest playwright in history. Anyone desirous of expanding his or
her knowledge of Shakespeare can use this book as a bibliography of
a wide variety of source material
This is a book for many audiences. Obviously, "Bardomaniacs"
(Gollob's word) will love it, but equally as interested will be
those undergoing mid-life changes in careers or life in general.
There is something here for a broad spectrum of readers. Gollob is
a witty and wise writer, and everyone should partake of his effort.
Like him, you will have a wonderful journey.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 22, 2011
Me and Shakespeare: Adventures With the Bard