We know him not at all, and yet completely. That has always been the paradox of William Shakespeare. The characters he created in his plays have worked their way into the collective DNA of the English-speaking world, of Western culture broadly considered, and of world culture through Western culture. The language of Shakespeare — that unique and startling way he had of phrasing things–has become the common currency of thinking, acting, being. But we don’t know much about his life. We know the basic details: born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, married Anne Hathaway in 1582, died in 1616. Beyond that, he is a mystery. We don’t have any information that explains how he could have had such an immense and lasting influence, an influence that only seems to grow, century after century. When you reflect on it for a moment, it doesn’t seem possible that one person could have created… More…

Flying into Provincetown on an eight-seat prop plane, you see what Norman Mailer meant when he wrote the preface to Are We in Vietnam? — “In Provincetown, geography runs out, and you are surrounded by the sea. So it is a strange place.”

 

In the summer of 2009, I arrived at the end of geography, one of the inaugural Norman Mailer fellows — seven writers who spent a month in Provincetown and attended seminars in Mailer’s house, established as a writer’s colony after his death in 2007.

After settling into a condo a few houses down from Mailer’s, Larry Schiller — filmmaker, writer, and the colony’s enigmatic executive director — gave us the four-digit code that would allow us to enter the Mailer house for exactly 28 days, at which point the code would change and stragglers would have… More…