Friday, December 4, 2009

Adam N. McKeown's "English Mercuries"

Adam N. McKeown is Assistant Professor of English at Tulane University, where he teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance culture. He is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. His course, "Shakespeare in the Desert," taught in Djibouti during Operation Enduring Freedom, was featured on a National Public Radio segment.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, English Mercuries: Soldier Poets in the Age of Shakespeare, and reported the following:
If one is fortunate enough to have a tenure-track professorial post that requires one to write a book, the goal of getting the book out subsumes all others.

Until the book comes out. Then the real purpose of writing the book in the first place announces itself, not without a little anxiety. What does this book really have to say? What does it contribute?

My point in English Mercuries: Soldier Poets in the Age of Shakespeare was, I hoped, that the booming patriotism we associate with the Elizabethan age is a gross simplification. If we look closely at the literary record, we find a country tired of war and marred with grave doubts about the purpose of war. I thought that the voices of those who bore the costs of war most personally -- the soldiers who fought, their friends, and their families -- were not being heard. The point of the book, I hoped, was to retell the story of Elizabethan England through the writings they left behind.

But did I make that point or did I just get the book out? I was wondering this anyway when I was asked to submit
English Mercuries to the Page 99” test. With trembling hand I turned to page 99. Here is what it said:
The final image of Antwerp in Alarum for London is that of a city in the hands of people who are conquerors but who are also people, who recognize that once the war is over and all the money and property have changed hands, there is a dead soldier who had very little stake in the cause for which he died.
You know, I think I made my point. I hope you all do, too!
Read more about English Mercuries at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue