Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spanking Shapiro by Jake Wizner

Shakespeare Shapiro has always, always, always hated his name. His parents David and Sarah hated their boring names and decided that no child of their's would have a common name. Instead, in one of the many unsubstantiated stories about his naming, they put the names of various great historical figures into a jar and decide that they would use whichever name they pulled out. This, of course led to the bestowing of Shakespeare upon him, and his little brother was similarly named Gandhi.

Shakespeare is a senior at a high school that makes every senior take a writing seminar. The end product is a memoir of their life so far. Its a big deal. There are several finalists, but only one winner and it has become much more prestigious to win the writing award then to be the valedictorian. In past years some winners have even been offered lucrative publishing deals.

The book is set up with alternating chapters. We go back and forth from living vicariously through Shakespeare's view of his current times to chapters that he has written for his memoir. The thing to know is that he doesn't shy away from any topic no matter how embarrassing or incriminating the topic. And that is precisely why it is so incredibly funny. It's filled with the type of observations, bodily functions, things people do (especially teenage boys) that you know people do all the time, but no one ever talks about - the types of things that never get mentioned in polite company. So lots of masterbating, lots of farting, lots of inappropriate thoughts. His best friend keeps a journal of his bowel movements. This is not a high brow book.

I laughed the entire way through it. Shakespeare is probably not the most reliable narrator. He is in the sense of not shying away from the daily embarrassments that make up his life, but I think he exaggerated situations to make them more humorous. The situations Shakespeare finds himself in always seem over the top, but even so, the author writes with such honesty that they still manage to ring true. Quite the accomplishment.

Boys will love this book. It's foul, it is full of teenage boy rites of passage (like being jealous of his younger brother's drug use and finally getting high for the first time...priceless!), and it is absolutely the funniest thing I've read in a long, long time. So, yes they'll love it...if they can get past the cover. I wish it had a flashier cover without the image of the original Shakespeare on the cover. Hopefully the paperback will fix that.

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