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The structure of this novel is odd and intriguing It begins with a preface allegedly provided by the publisher, Random House, but which is clearly part of the narrative and the conceit that the author is using The book s very title is, of course, part of the imaginative content, the first person unreliable narrator having the same name as the true author, and The Tragedy of Arthur being the title of a recently discovered Shakespearean play, that very title having several possible interpretations After the very brief preface, an introduction written by the character Arthur Phillips and lasting than 250 pages follows, after which is appended the play itself And that is it, the structure that the author has chosen and in which he intends to confine himself Interesting, indeed.Phillips writing the narrator s, not just the author s is witty, even when self consciously so, and the author captures the tones and affectations of adolescence and young adulthood perfectly, using the identity and foil of the narrator and his twin sister skillfully to explore subtleties of emotion The author weaves his own true autobiography into the narrator s story in such a way as to blend and validate the conceit he has chosen for the story Very skillful, very intriguing, and captivating.The middle third of the introduction, though, descends to much seemingly needless and distracting noodling, a sort of authorial memoir that wanders without apparent purpose, as if the author were being paid by the page and needed filler Maybe this accurately reflects the state of the narrator Arthur s life at the time, thus justifying the ennui His con artist father, perhaps the most interesting character in the book, is left briefly by the wayside, and his twin sister, easily the next most interesting character, is used mainly as a foil to his own improbable attempts at maturation and independence Then the pace quickens Arthur s father rejoins his children, Dana s partner Petra becomes the focus of Arthur s longing or lust , and the project of authenticating and publishing Shakespeare s play increasingly consumes the effort and attention of all concerned Never far below the surface is the issue of Arthur s desperate yearning for his father s and then his sister s approval But this is complicated by Arthur s growing conviction that the play is a forgery and that his now dead father is pulling a final monumental con Imbedded in this narrative are fascinating questions about artistic creation, about the role and reputation of the artist, about originality and artistic judgment and criticism What makes an artist or a work good What makes an artist renowned Is originality or is skill within a genre important What criteria do we use when judging a work of art Why does reputation often wax and wane, and do the criteria for judging a work change with the times Arthur the narrator begins this work with the assertion, I have never much liked Shakespeare, and Arthur the author uses this dislike and skepticism as a tool to explore these questions.Eventually do we all become our parents Does Arthur become the equivalent of his father Ultimately this novel is about relationships and identity So much of Shakespeare is about being at a loss for identity We worship at the shrine of our self uniqueness, terrified by the realization that few of us are truly unique And we rely on others to affirm us, to make us real Each of us feels that somehow our parents, even as they care for us, are also in some way to blame for the existential aloneness that we experience as part of being human Forgiving our parents, as Arthur s sister reminds him, is strengthening it means that you don t need them to help you be you any And does Shakespeare, as Harold Bloom has suggested, define our humanity Have Shakespeare s characters already defined and presaged the roles we play Is Arthur the author, Arthur the narrator Is either of them, or both, the Arthur of Shakespeare s play, if it is Shakespeare s play Who is any of us, really Finally the reader arrives at the play itself And what is it like No Shakespeare scholar, I, although I ve read all his plays than once and seen many of them performed This place certainly reads like Elizabethan drama and presents a central character of complexity, enigmatic to his core The play is purported to be early Shakespeare, but I am not enough of a Shakespeare scholar to judge of that It is in any event most enjoyable, and it is fun to compare its themes and central character with the tale that Arthur the narrator has told, both play and Introduction shedding light on each other Each Arthur is solipsistic, impulsive, needing and wanting of affection and affirmation Each is prey to his own desires and has difficulty viewing the world through the eyes of others A play within a novel becomes the lens through which we come to view ourselves.Phillips has written a novel that is clever, creative, thought provoking, and entertaining, exemplifying the use of the unreliable narrator to weave a tale as complex as it is elegant and witty I m glad I read it. Good book, well written, enjoyable, and thought provoking Shakespeare pervades this book, so it is probably mostly of interest to those who like Shakespeare or are at least interested in Shakespeare There were some things about this book I did not like 1 I found the first chunk of it very rough going because I hated the narrator and thought he was whiney In fact, the narrator uses that word, whine, than once about himself, possibly three times or Telling Around the time the narrator went to college, things picked up and I became interested and less annoyed 2 The narrator spent a lot of time showing us instead of tellng us, especially showing off his knowledge of Shakespeare In addition to repeatedly presenting situations easily recognizable as Shakespearean, the narrator then took the additional step of identifying the specific play that the where a similar situation ensued This had the effect of the narrator and the writer showing off in their letters, striving to continually be the smartest guys at the cocktail party I would have enjoyed thinking about this on my own 3 POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT POSSIBLY NOT SO MUCH, BUT IN AN EXCESS OF CAUTION, SKIP THIS IF YOU REALLY HATE SPOILERS The convicted forger father insists that the narrator concoct a story about how the manuscript at the center of the tale was found, on the grounds that if anyone knew it came from the hands of a convicted forger, no one would take the manuscript In this age of instant information about anyone, any idiot could have connected the narrator to his forger father pretty fast Anyone wanting to seriously test the manuscript s origins could have figured this out in no time This was a completely implausible plot point that didn t hold up I know, I know, this book is a story about stories, an elaborate ruse about elaborate ruses, but since the writer went to great lengths to make other elements of the plot seemingly plausible, I was disappointed by this 4 What happened to the narrator at the end of the book seemed way out of proportion to his purported misdeeds The characters who punished him showed their own unspeakable moral shabbiness another disappointment because they were otherwise interesting and funny characters Made me appreciate Shakespeare s skill in this area all the When somebody is punished in Shakespeare, there is no question about proportion. @DOWNLOAD EPUB õ The Tragedy of Arthur ê 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 PostIts 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 AffectionYears 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 ConBy 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 Arthur Explores 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 FatesA New York Times Notable Book A New Yorker Reviewers Favorite Of The Year A Wall Street Journal Best Novel Of The Year A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book Of The Year A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book Of The Year A Library Journal Top Ten Book Of The Year A Kirkus Reviews Best Book Of The Year One Of Salon S Five Best Novels Of The Year The Tragedy of Arthur is a title with a double meaning In one sense it refers to a lost Shakespearean play of that name and in the other it refers to the narrator of the tale, someone who may or may not be the novelist Arthur Phillips Like the real Arthur Phillips, the fictional Arthur Phillips grew up in Minnesota, has lived in Prague, has written a novel named after that city The fictional Arthur has a father was was a con man possessed of wild and grandiose schemes who spends much of his life in prison Fictional Arthur has a gifted twin sister who loves her father and Shakespeare in equal measure Phillips is apparently a novelist whose narrators are generally unreliable Having only read his Egyptologist I was unaware of this but the narrative structure is such that I am sure many readers have interrupted their reading of the novel to quietly google the author s biography I did and so far am none the wiser The lost play which ends up in fictional Arthur s hands is summarized and quoted throughout the novel however, not content with this feat of imagination the real Arthur Phillips has written and appended to the book a complete play called The Tragedy of Arthur Fictional Arthur s tempestuous relationship with his father is the leit motif here and much of that anger and frustration is also directed at Shakespeare At a rehearsal for Hamlet in which Arthur s sister is playing Ophelia he begins ranting on the cult of Shakespeare That was perfect Shakespeare was the greatest creator of Rorschach tests in history That s why we keep going back to him for the ten billionth production of this lame play Look, look you have a weak spot where Will s not thinking very clearly, and the character rambles on, and Will sticks in a joke that he likes about flowers that look like wieners It plainly doesn t belong there Any editor would cut it It breaks the rhythm and the logic of the scene And your sweet old Gertrude noticed it and rightly points out the weak spot Anybody else, we d say, Whoops Not buying it, Will If I wrote it, they d send me home to rework it Instead, what do you all do You all talk it out until you make it make sense for him He wrote it, so it must be right You six very intelligent people form a committee to offer him your help, and when you ve done the best you can, consulting old books of other would be helpers, when you actually come up with some very clever solutions, you marvel at him for composing such a subtle moment.A little later this leads to a extreme opinion A biographer asks, What would my subject likely have done, even if I have no record of it This leads to that paranoid and extreme Shakespeare philic Shakespeare phobic idea that there is nothing we can do or think that some actor from Warwickshire didn t plan for us between 1589 and 1613 The novelist in the novel also offers up some choice words on the whole publishing racket Here s one of my favorites a famously vicious and dismissive New York newspaper book reviewer whom I made the career bashing mistake of kissing and feeling up at a party at Yale decades earlier and then never calling faulted my last novel for a curious absence of empathy This is a novel of great imagination that also displays a keen intellect in respect to Shakespeare Unreliable of not, Phillips knows, as Shakespeare taught us truths would be tales, Where now half tales be truths. This book is odd It is set up as a memoir, but it s not The author takes a fictional account of his family and includes the Arthur legend in it with some Shakespeare thrown in It shouldn t have worked, but honestly the book as a whole really does work if you read the play first it s in the back and work back through the fictional introduction by the author talking about him wanting to show the world about his father And as we know about the Arthur legend, it is ultimately a tale of fathers and stand in fathers Starting with the play, this is written by Shakespeare and looks into Arthur being the son of the King Uter Pendragon and a noblewoman that Uter raped After Uter s death, Arthur s right to rule is challenged by heir to the crown of Pictland, Mordred Mordred s father is King Loth who refuses to go to war with Arthur This play is about how of course these two men to do go to war And how Arthur is brought low due his love of a woman who caused him to forget that above all else he was king I honestly think this book would be cool to borrow just to read the play itself I do think though that the play does not read like Shakespeare at all to me Maybe because I recently got done reading 10 of his plays But, for me, it was very nice mimicry.Then you go back to the introduction by Phillips who begins to tell the tale of his father who is a forger Arthur s father is in and out of jail for most of his life and eventually when he is younger, his mother divorces him and marries someone from her hometown Arthur and his twin sister Dana have a lot of ups and downs through the years Though twins, they differ on the subject of their father Dana defends him and Arthur I find saw through his father the most Eventually though, the introduction does turn into a mini walk though Shakespeare here and there You have some references to A Midsummer Night s Dream and Twelfth Night We have the character of Arthur trying to be honest and I thought this faux memoir was very well done We get to see an imperfect man and husband and father And yes even son and brother But I think he also shone a light on an imperfect family that refused to acknowledge the truth about each other In the end, a twist worthy of Shakespeare has Arthur out in the cold away from his family That was the one part that didn t feel real to me It also didn t make sense his own mother would somehow go along with things And the character of Petra really didn t evolve beyond somehow being the perfect woman I thought she played a lot of games and I didn t much care for her or Dana in the end. When I ve described this novel to friends, it s always sounded interesting That s strange because I actually struggled to finish it, and only did so out of a sense of duty and respect to the person who enthusiastically bestowed it on me It s another in that line of novels that masquerades as a memoir of the protagonist who shares the same name as the author Arthur Phillips The memoirist Arthur Philips has a twin sister Dana whom he claims to love above all others despite the fact that he can easily justify his profound betrayals of her Their father is a con artist forger who spends most of his life in jail When he s not in jail he lavishes his affection Dana and instills in her his own adoration of William Shakespeare Arthur is left out of this shared interest, as well his father s love he thinks , and in turn develops a profound disdain for the Bard That s all I m going to tell you because you might actually want to read this New York Times Notable Book and I wouldn t want to spoil it for you But I can t help mentioning that the long lost now newly discovered play, The Tragedy of Arthur, by William Shakespeare is published herein and is certifiably crappy. I see that I am in the small minority of readers who dislikes this novel I also admit that I did not read the play itself after suffering through the author s Introduction The pace of the book is very slow, endlessly repetitive, and self absorbed, like the fictional author who shares his name with the actual author of this book The idea of writing a fictional memoir, using your own name and some real facts about your own life is bizarre, bordering on ridiculous No publisher would have put up with the fictional shenanigans that Arthur Phillips imagines, even if a previously unknown work by Shakespeare were at stake The fictional author s perpetual anger at his father is understandable but repeated so often as to be insufferable Get over it The irresponsible, criminal, forger father is much lovable than his author son.I am sorry that I did not follow one reader s suggestion to read the fictional play at the end of the book before reading the Introduction that precedes and contradicts it Perhaps I would have enjoyed the play and could have skimmed the author s clever story The only clever event in the Introduction happens at the very end, when his lesbian sister and her partner maneuver Arthur into forming a real family with the two of them, so to speak The author deserved to be used in this way. Clever, clever maybe too cleverThink, for a moment, of a novel as a painting You have the central subject a picture of human beings living their rich, messy, and often complicated lives You have the means by which the artist puts this across his choice of medium, his style, his handling of paint or language And then you have the frame the structure that holds everything together, that comes between the artifact and the real world For a long time in my reading, I thought I was dealing with a four star book an intricate canvas in a beautifully constructed frame carrying a central image the human story that just failed to move me I still think this But my admiration continued to grow for Phillips brilliant concept, his prodigious knowledge, and his profusely scattered pearls of wisdom, to the point where I realized that five stars were nowhere near enough to do them justice Indeed, it seemed as though the frame had become the subject and the story was only secondary For many readers, that will be than enough.The frame in this case is what purports to be the first modern edition of a lost Shakespeare play, The Tragedy of Arthur Discovered or forged by Phillips father, Arthur Phillips senior, the play is printed in its entirety, replete with footnotes both scholarly and sly, and preceded by a 250 page introduction by his son, the well known novelist whose life and career appear to be very close to what he tells us of himself in the book For, rather than a scholarly introduction, he has written an autobiographical sketch of growing up with his twin sister Dana, and developing a love for language and story telling from his miracle working father repeatedly in and out of jail for working too many miracles, and ultimately wrecking the marriage All this while, Arthur has been part of the family lore, until at the end of his life Arthur Phillips senior reveals a 1597 printing of the play that is the basis for this Random House edition The whole edifice is a brilliant post modern construction as complex, as daring and as entertaining as they come.Let s take the question of authenticity There may be readers who assume, at least for a while, that the play is genuine But it says a novel on the cover, which implies that it is not I must say I came to this with a good deal of skepticism, wondering how Arthur Phillips the real one could write a play that would fool a Shakespearean for a moment I would not call myself that professionally, but I won a Shakespeare prize at Cambridge and still teach a Shakespeare course for actors And indeed it did not convince the verse is just too full of archaisms and coined words, Shakespearean hallmarks it is true, but used as though to show off rather than communicate Oddly enough, the prose passages are easier to accept, but overall it just didn t feel right So I read on, smugly sure of my own superiority But then I find that Phillips has been there before me, anticipating all my objections If you think it s him, it sounds like him, Arthur says to his sister if you think it s not, it doesn t Besides, what we think of Shakespeare is shaped by the mature plays, but here we would be dealing with very early work, around the time of Henry VI Part 1, which is by no means typical of his later style.As I read on, I became and impressed by Phillips understanding of Shakespeare Entering a rebellious phase coinciding with the discovery of her own sexuality , Dana concocts a complex anti Stratfordian theory that the canon was the work of two men, collaborators and rivals, working behind Shakespeare as their public facade It is a nutty theory, but it suddenly explains some problems in the Sonnets that had bothered me for ages Whether this particular play is fake or not, Phillips constantly offers insights into the accepted canon that makes me see it in new ways And I looked into Arthur too, finding islands of comparative simplicity among the bombast that almost did convince me, such as this, from the beginning of Arthur s wooing of Guenhera in Act III, scene 1 No mockery but of my wordless self No poet, Guen, no orator at all I am untongued when most I want new words To lock your beauty in my longest thoughts I spent too soon the language I did know, Like to an actor hoarse from preparation. As I followed Phillips fascinating account of how Random House has the play authenticated by experts, I found myself nurturing an impossible hope not necessarily that the play would be genuine Shakespeare, but that it would be genuine within the context of this fiction, and that Arthur Phillips senior would not be the only one to have worked miracles.So I come back to the notion of the frame mediating between the artifact and the real world By so developing his frame, Phillips essentially blurs its boundaries The novel is no longer a fiction safely contained within neutral covers the covers themselves the preface, the title page are also part of the fiction Similarly, we know that part of the Arthur Phillips presented in the story is the real novelist who published certain books in certain years, but we also assume that part is not real his father s criminality, some intimate aspects of his relationship with his sister For me, paradoxically, the erasure of the line between fact and fiction makes the characters seem less, not , believable It is clear that certain aspects of the Arthur play were constructed to parallel the lives of the Phillips family, but I also felt that the family was fictionalized so as to parallel the play As a result, while Arthur s love hate relationship with his father, his own search for identity, and his loving rivalry with his sister are all fine subjects for fiction, I never quite felt them in my gut Had I done so, five or even six stars would hardly have been sufficient. Arthur Phillips is our most reliable creator of unreliable narrators And in the case of this book, it is Arthur Phillips himself who narrates That is the Arthur Phillips who is the author of Prague, The Egyptologist, Angelica, The Song Is You, as well as the discoverer of what may be a newly discovered Shakespeare play The Tragedy of Arthur.The book begins with a short preface from Random House , followed by an Introduction to the newly discovered play by Arthur Phillips, and then the Shakespeare play itself, complete with the standard apparatus of footnotes one expects with Shakespeare The Introduction is 250 pages long and is essentially a self contained memoir of how Phillips came to get the Shakespeare manuscript from his father, a genial forger with a penchant for creating wonders, why he initially thought it was genuine and brought it to Random House, and how he eventually came to doubt its legitimacy despite mounting and overwhelming evidence from a wide range of experts that the manuscript was genuine.The Introduction is one part fabulous invention, one part a hilarious riff on Shakespeare studies and the claim that Shakespeare did not write his works, one part a serious discussion of the relationship of art and authorship, and one part a deeply affecting story of a family and its growth Although it is all not wrapped up nearly as elegantly as The Egyptologist or The Song is You, the individual parts are superior.Like Pale Fire, but in reverse order, The Tragedy of Arthur includes the entire, uninterrupted play that is the subject of the bulk of the book Although the novel itself falls short of Pale Fire which says little , the original document itself is much a much ambitious enterprise what is meant to be or not to be, so to speak, a complete five act Shakespeare play about the King Arthur Unlike the poem that prefaces Pale Fire, the play itself is readable and worth reading, a pastiche of the Shakespeare histories, reaching close to the level of the worst of them The sometimes dueling footnotes between Arthur Phillips and the Random House editors are not to be missed.Overall, another completely original work from Arthur Phillips, The best book I ve read this year, and well worth a review I shall write one when this damn essay is finished In the meantime, read this book Time Passes I found The Tragedy of Arthur in the classics section of my local bookshop This, possibly, is a bit presumptuous Arthur is a play by William Shakespeare that may not have been written by William Shakespeare All the tests, all the critics, all the academics say that this lost work, now found, is a miracle They attest that something so obviously old even down to the dyes in the ink used on the quarto , so obviously written at least most of it in the Bard s inimitable style, and so obviously un fakeable has to be legitimate Arthur Phillips, the discoverer of the play, disagrees The Tragedy of Arthur runs for five acts, but is dwarfed by Phillips contractually obliged introduction Read the play first, as the preface suggests, and you ll start to notice something is not quite right There are two men leaving footnotes, and they seem to be arguing consistently through them Curious The play is enjoyable, and reads like what I ve read of Shakespeare about five or six plays, depending on if you count the ones you do at school, and most of the sonnets It s a rollicking history that ends in tragedy, full of speeches and sex and comedy Shakespeare s kind of thing There s a flawed king, loyal friends, treachery and war and not a nice word to say about Scotland Once you ve read the play, then you can read the introduction which is a memoir than anything else Phillips is a reluctant memoirist, and is only writing the thing so Random House can t ruin his life with highly paid and highly efficient lawyers letters and correspondence placed through the text show the pressure that Phillips was under Arthur Phillips never really liked Shakespeare His father and his twin sister, Dana, would fawn over the Bard, whilst he felt left out and unloved His relationship with his sister was normally porous they were semi permeable in the way that some twins are but when it came to Shakespeare, he just didn t get it Their family is near idyllic for six or seven years until Phillips father is imprisoned for various crimes, all relating to forgery He is in and out of prison for most of the rest of his life, causing Arthur and his sister torment, their mother to take a new husband, and strange psychological strands to wrap themselves through Arthur and Dana and Arthur Snr If you want to know why Arthur Jnr ends up writing the introduction, read the book it s worth it The Tragedy of Arthur is about a lot of things authenticity, wonder, Shakespeare, family, loyalty, deception, Art, secrets, doubt Phillips is an arrogant intentionally writer who tackles big themes He judges Jonson s Sweet Swan of Avon as nothing than a jobbing writer who got lucky There s a truth in what he says about Shakespeare he s near impossible to criticise, and when his plays are questioned, the questioner is shown not to have understood them properly I like this view of Shakespeare I love his plays and the stories, but it s nice to see him as a writer and not some untouchable, unobtainable star of poets The man was a man after all I loved the way I read this book, with pencil in hand and always asking questions You investigate as you read, you begin to believe and you know it s fake, you ask and answer and wonder If Shakespeare hadn t written the play that lay in a library for five hundred years, unnoticed and forgotten, would you still think it was beautiful If the play had been placed in a bank vault in the twentieth century by a master forger, would you still enjoy the writing When does art stop being art When does it become Art This is a book that makes you question your own ways of creating, as well as your own place in the whole pantheon of writers It is a book about the illusion and authenticity of creation It s an idea that lives on secrets and deception, and never quite knowing the ones you love It s about trying, so, so hard, to know the ones you love There s a delicious whiff of old books and old times, and a strange feeling of insecurity even if you know you re being lied to, you never quite know It s a defence of magic We have so many facts, and with them we can cut down anything 16 It s about trying to be unique Well, if I can be him, then I m unique, too, just like him, unlike these seven billion walking duplicates 243 It s about loving books, and living books, and the weird boundaries between art and life and art and truth I feel differently about Shakespeare, and it is a good different I feel differently about art, and that too is good I feel better for having read and loved this book, and The Tragedy of Arthur will stay in my heart and in my head for a long time Arthur Phillips managed to convince the people who make the stickers at Dymocks that this is all real, and he may even convince you I hope he does, at least for a little bit Believing in things can be fun, and if the illusion breaks or fails, then you still have this wonderful, crazy imagined novel to tell you how it all works, and why you have come to think the way you do Here s some cool internet things to check out