A Few Bookish Questions With Scott Newstok

A Few Bookish Questions With Scott Newstok

Scott Newstok might seem like just an expert on Shakespeare on the outside. But when it comes down to it, he’s someone who works deeply in the realms of thinking and education. His book How to Think Like Shakespeare is a wonderful collection of ideas on being a modern renaissance human being—“a love letter to the craft of thought.” He was kind enough to take some time to answer my bookish questions.

1. What would you say to someone who's a bit intimidated about approaching Shakespeare? Any editions of the text you prefer?

Anywhere that grabs you—that’s where to begin. Maybe that’s memorizing a single sonnet, just allowing it to seep into your bones. Maybe that’s reading a comic book version, like those drawn by my former student Mya Gosling. Give yourself a foothold, then climb from there. 

2. Do you have a favorite work of his? What about a favorite modern derivative? 

My favorite play to read has long been The Winter’s Tale, which I got to see staged for the first time only recently (2018 Shakespeare’s Globe). My favorite modern derivative? That’d have to be Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, which in my eyes unmoors Othello

3. Any advice for modern readers that helped give life to How to Think Like Shakespeare? Be it philosophy or craft or something else.

Thinking entails embodied making. The more we can recall that in our disembodied consumer world, the better. 

4. What are you reading and enjoying now? What's next on your list?

The semester just ended, so I’m reading final projects! Happily, most of them are indeed enjoyable, as my students have been imitating the poets we’ve been reading, while others are reducing scenes from Midsummer for performance by a 5th grade class. Again: embodied making. Next on my list is returning to Michel de Montaigne’s essays, as I’m editing a selection of his thoughts on education, provocatively contrarian as ever. 

5. Do you have any all-time favorite books that have particularly shaped your thinking or worldview or that you just really loved? 

Hmm . . . some favorite writers: Christopher Alexander, Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, John Berger, Jorge Luis Borges, Kenneth Burke, Willa Cather, Stanley Cavell, J. M. Coetzee, Lydia Davis, Geoff Dyer, Ralph Ellison, Zbigniew Herbert, Pauline Kael, Zadie Smith, Edward Tufte, Robert Warshow, Virginia Woolf. With Emily Dickinson, I thank these Kinsmen of the Shelf.