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Hamlet's Dresser: A Memoir (2002)

de Bob Smith

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292568,237 (3.69)6
In gorgeous and tender prose, Smith weaves together the story of his difficult childhood and his encounters with "the old people" to tell the story of a life shaped by poetry. "Hamlet's Dresser" is both a redemptive memoir of a man made whole by art, and an intimate encounter with the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare.… (mais)
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Exibindo 5 de 5
There were parts of this book I devoured and other parts I had to make myself plow through. When Bob was at the senior centers reading Shakespeare and the parts about his sister Carolyn, those were the parts I enjoyed. Shakespeare truly made Bob's life whole, and at a young age. He gets a job at the Shakespeare festival in his hometown of Stratford, CT, where he becomes Hamlet's dresser. He is enthralled with the inner workings of the drama and watches every performance. At home, he seems to be Carolyn's only ally, but when she gets sent to a home, he abandons her. That part was hard to read. Bob meets many famous people during his time with Shakespeare plays, it is always great to read a good Katherine Hepburn story. Shakespeare not only transforms Bob's life, but the people he shares the plays with in the senior center are transformed as well. That is by far the most rewarding part of the book. ( )
  bnbookgirl | May 25, 2015 |
[Hamlet’s Dresser] by [[Bob Smith]]

I listened to this on audio, read very ably by the author. This is a memoir that covers Smith’s difficult childhood which was dominated by the care for his developmentally disabled sister, his salvation by Shakespearean theater, and his role in teaching Shakespeare to older adults in Senior Centers in New York City. Somehow it all works together beautifully.

I thought that Smith was a good writer, and there are many Shakespeare quotations, which are so amazing. The book really highlights how Shakespeare can reach across the centuries to be totally relevant to our lives and relationships today.

I loved Smith’s descriptions of the older adults he taught. For example, Joe:

“Joe was in the first group of seniors I worked with over on Ninth Avenue. He’d grown up eighty years earlier in a tenement with a bunch of older siblings. By the end of the century he was the only one left. Joe loved me from the start. He’d bring me apples or an orange. He’d shove broken cookies and bus transfers into my jacket pocket.
“I saw Maurice Evans as Richard the Second,” he said. “It must be fifty years or more. Did Richard deserve the bad things that happen?”
Joe wanted the world to be a finer place than he’d fever found it. Despite no formal education past grammar school he spent most of his time rewriting the great thinkers. He’d reconstructed Dante and Rousseau. Every week when I gave him the play copy, he’d hand me a stained beat-up notebook or a frayed twenty-five-year old vanity press paperback.
“Tell me what you think, Professor?”
The rewrites were all pretty much the same. He’d fastidiously refocus facts to take out pain. Extracting the stinger from Goldsmith or Voltaire, what he kept was a dull, no-fault world where everyone gets home before dark. Joe was a tender guy. When we’d get to the inevitable viciousness in the Shakespeare he’d excuse himself to hide in the bathroom; when we got to the sadness he’d weep so pitifully that anyone near would be compelled to put his arm around him.” ( )
  banjo123 | Mar 28, 2015 |
Condition: Used - good - small crease on inside page
  booksandbooks | Jun 1, 2013 |
As I scanned the audiobooks at my local library, this one was sticking out, so I took it home. Smith's prose was so succinct, I was transfixed and listened to the CDs twice through before buying the book. I'm an actor and my first experience seeing Shakespeare was at the very theatre where Smith was a dresser. I can't even remember which play I saw, the men were so beautiful. I grew up in NY where Smith taught Shakespeare to seniors and laughed at how vividly he captivated me with them. I read the book twice, then recommended it to the professor teaching a memoir class I was taking. He also fell in love with the book and is going to use it for his next class. A marvel.
  yasuko | Dec 30, 2007 |
Bob Smith is a man who has dedicated his entire life to William Shakespeare. In this memoir he blends together his past and present using quotes from Shakespeare's plays as his own life's lessons.
His memoir covers his lonely childhood and neglect from his parents, who were overwhelmed and stressed caring for Bob's handicapped sister, Carolyn. He's left to his own devices, and at the age of ten he is given a copy of "The Merchant of Venice" by a librarian. This, he feels, is what saved his life.
It carries on to his teenaged years of performing poorly in school to help ease the guilt of his sister's handicap to finally finding his place in theatre as "Hamlet's dresser." ( )
  quillmenow | Aug 12, 2007 |
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In gorgeous and tender prose, Smith weaves together the story of his difficult childhood and his encounters with "the old people" to tell the story of a life shaped by poetry. "Hamlet's Dresser" is both a redemptive memoir of a man made whole by art, and an intimate encounter with the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare.

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