Hamlet's Perfection by William Kerrigan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I slogged through Updike's Gertrude and Claudius and noted a reference to "Hamlet's Perfection" in the author's closing comments. I decided to dig up a copy, and I am delighted that I did: I don't think I have ever read a work of criticism with as much interest and involvement as I just finished Kerrigan's 150 page discussion of Hamlet and his transformation from Act I to Act V of the play. A huge part of my enjoyment is Kerrigan's voice: he's sassy, disrespectful, and, at times, crude (his use of pejorative slang for female genitalia crossed the line of good taste, I felt, regardless of what Hamlet was saying to Ophelia). He peppers his discussion with allusions to numerous critics, poets, and even jazz numbers. . . . but the base of the book is sharp, fascinating analysis of Hamlet, both text and character. In the meantime, Kerrigan runs roughshod over various critics whom he feels have muddied the waters of Hamlet discussion over the years--I dug around for reviews and found one academic reviewer sounding a bit sniffy, but I declined to pay to read the rest of it. However, even as I felt that a few of his arguments moved a bit fast, presupposing some points as shaky as those he criticizes other experts for holding, I found his diction and overall points enlightening, illuminating, and wonderfully readable.
I will at least share my response to this book with my students this fall, but I have the feeling they'll end up reading chunks of it as well (I think it's available on google books). I am still amazed by the force of Kerrigan's insights and by his ability to marshal his arguments so effectively.
Reread (or watch) Hamlet, then read Hamlet's Perfection. Wow.
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On top of finishing this terrific book, I am ALMOST finished with my portfolio dress: tried it on today, and it looks like a keeper, AND it was a top ten Maine summer day today. I ran (four miles! Go, me!) around 10 and it was perfect weather for it: dry air and a nice breeze to compensate for the strong sun. We did have a brief rain storm with a few rumbles of thunder around 2, but overall--wow. What a lovely day!