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Anthony Burgess: Enderby’s Dark Lady

If you read The Clockwork Testament, you would have realized that Enderby, cantankerous English poet, had died of a heart attack. Burgess gives a rather complicated explanation as to why he did not really die. Anyway, here he is again, out in Indiana this time. He has written a story for a relatively obscure Canadian magazine about Shakespeare’s involvement in the King James’ bible (inevitably tongue in cheek and somewhat scatological). This is noticed and he is asked to write the script for a musical version of Shakespeare and the Dark Lady. Most of the book is about the actual production of this musical, which gives Burgess ample opportunity to mock Americans. His targets include the usual theatre/cinema types, the rich backers, the academics and many aspects of American life and culture. He is, of course, not adverse to poking fun at Enderby and his erratic and eccentric behaviour.

Apart from whether the musical will be put on and in what form and the backbiting, the only real plot element is whether Enderby will get into bed with the statuesque April Love, the sexy black singer who has been hired to play the Dark Lady. This is perhaps where Burgess lets his fantasy run wild – he turns her down, rather than the other way, though it is not quite clear why. As usual, all in good fun, though not great literature and the two framing Shakespeare stories – the bible one and a time travel one at the end – are hilarious.

Publishing history

First published 1984 by Hutchinson