Like James Shapiro's Contested Will and Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, Arthur Phillips' novel The Tragedy of Arthur provides further evidence that the Shakespeare authorship question has engaged the post-modern imagination. Phillips' pseudo memoir containing a pseudo pseudo-Shakespeare play will be released in hardcover by Random House on April 19, 2011. An excerpt of Phillips' novel on Scribd.com describes the narrator's anti-Stratfordian sib:
Back in 1979, a month after my father began serving that ten-year sentence, fifteen-year-old Dana finally staged her only adolescent rebellion, expressing her pain at Dad's incompetent wonder-working and abandonment ofher. Her attack may not impress anyone who's given their parents a truly rought ride, but you have to judge her act in context. Considering that her own personality (gay) was already an unwilling blow against parental expectations, she had never felt the need to "act out," all rebellious energies spent on navigating a world that contained a fair amount of hostitlity to her. But now she agressively struck at our father, harder than I could have, because she was braver and more honest, because he loved her more, and because what she did was so piercingly fired at him and him alone.
She became an anti-Stratfordian.
She consciously chose to believe, or tried to believe, or at least pretended to believe -- and then feigned amazement at Dad's anguish -- that the author of the works of "William Shakespeare" could not conceivably have been William Shakespeare, the semieducated, part-time actor/part-time real estate speculator son of a provincial glove-maker from Stratford-upon-Avon, that no such person could have composed the greatest works of English literature, embodying the finest of all psychology, storytelling, artistry, linguistic brilliance, and so forth.Read more of Dana's adolescent literary rebellion and her unique solution to the Shakespeare authorship question at:
Random House provides an overview of the novel on their website:
The Tragedy of Arthur is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force from bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips, “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post).
Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of deception but is a most unreliable parent. Arthur is raised in an enchanted world of smoke and mirrors where the only unshifting truth is his father’s and his beloved twin sister’s deep and abiding love for the works of William Shakespeare—a love so pervasive that Arthur becomes a writer in a misguided bid for their approval and affection.
Years later, Arthur’s father, imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, shares with Arthur a treasure he’s kept secret for half a century: a previously unknown play by Shakespeare, titled The Tragedy of Arthur. But Arthur and his sister also inherit their father’s mission: to see the play published and acknowledged as the Bard’s last great gift to humanity. . . . Unless it’s their father’s last great con.
By turns hilarious and haunting, this virtuosic novel—which includes Shakespeare’s (?) lost King Arthur play in its five-act entirety—captures the very essence of romantic and familial love and betrayal. The Tragedy of Arthurexplores the tension between storytelling and truth-telling, the thirst for originality in all our lives, and the act of literary mythmaking, both now and four centuries ago, as the two Arthurs—Arthur the novelist and Arthur the ancient king—play out their individual but strangely intertwined fates.Update: April 27, 2011
Shapiro weighs-in at The Daily Beast on The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips