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Life’s like Shakespeare


By Fr Leo Coote, self-published, $29.99

Reviewed by Terry Oberg

USING the tortured terminology of critical literacy, Queensland’s Year 11 and 12 English students, in recent years, have had to forge many tenuous links with Shakespeare.

He has been discoursed, foregrounded, privileged, silenced and empowered. He has been read dominantly, alternatively, resistantly and ideologically.

However, the New Farm parish administrator has outdone all that the Queensland Studies Authority has inflicted on our greatest dramatist.

Fr Leo Coote has used Shakespeare’s texts as a basis for his autobiography. His ingenious treatment of these plays is as welcome as the postmodernists’ deconstruction is abhorrent.

This is a genuinely funny – hilarious may not be an overstatement – creation.

His own lovable sense of humour is seen in the title, My Life as a Bard Dream. Get it? Bard (bad).

The mirth continues line by line. Father’s rationale exemplifies the mood.

“In this truly Bard dream, quotes from plays are woven whimsically, wisely and wantonly into a heterogeneous mixture, a gallimaufry, which constitutes the story of my life.”

These memoirs embrace his schooldays, his entry into the workforce and his sporting exploits as a failed golfer, marathon runner, cricket and rugby player, hot air balloonist and solar car driver.

His ventures on the racetrack and into the casino were equally non-productive, at least in a worldly sense.

A pub crawl, a rocky romance and bad health are other features of this nostalgic tour of the Shakespearian catalogue.

Savour a few of his allusions. A school photo of his senior class is accompanied by Caesar’s tirade, “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things”.

One of his teachers becomes Macbeth’s “tyrant whose sole name blisters our tongues”.

His foray into second-hand car sales elicits, “the things of sale were well used”.

The car plant’s assembly line sees him reduced to a “slave in base servility”.

As with most other Bardic golfers, he finds himself “on the starting hole in toil and trouble”.

This happens if one tries a little of Henry IV augmented by a jot of Macbeth.

Another golfing image from the pride of Stratford-on-Avon is, “cursed be the hand that made these fatal holes”.

Remember the street brawl in Romeo and Juliet? Cymbeline is the punter’s friend when he avidly exclaims, “O! for a horse with wings”.

A race for non-winners becomes, “a maiden’s pilgrimage”, to slightly misquote A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

One could keep connecting these literary curiosities with their aptness to Fr Leo’s life.

The narrative is complemented by quizzes, a spot of weather forecasting and a medical chapter courtesy of Dr Shakespeare.

The book is beautifully produced. The striking front and back covers give it the look of a high class edition of a classic Shakespearian drama.

It is printed on quality paper and the design and illustrations are superb.

This original concept, based on unusual creativity, showcases talent and hard work.

Give yourself a good laugh and help renovate Fr Coote’s parish church by purchasing a copy from Holy Spirit Presbytery, 16 Villiers St, New Farm, Qld 4005, phone (07) 3358 3744.

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