[Part 1 of 3 of an email interview — see McCloskey Allain’s long review of ENGLISHMAN]
Is the novel’s plot mirroring a particular Shakespeare tragedy? Even the spots of comic relief (Henry’s interrogation & the graveyard conversation with Randy) reminded me of a Shakespeare play.
You’re very right to sense this. There’s no exact plot-to-plot mirroring happening (as far as I’m aware of), but there is, let’s say, a nod to Hamlet, especially in the sense of the play’s preoccupation with self-consciousness, identity, anxiety, death, graveyards, etc., and also with Hamlet’s arguable redemption by play’s end. Randy is, essentially, the First Clown of V, i. What I was going for was for Randy to be an answer, even a rebuke, to Henry’s (and, by extension, the other characters’, except Kinnell) intense literary self-preoccupations, their harmful self-miring in language and literature. Randy is the wise fool.
The interrogation scene hopefully demonstrates Henry’s gradual epiphany with respect to this self-miring: how he just can’t buy into framing his reality in that especially academic/aesthetic way anymore. Shakespeare, his London, Jacobean tragedy, flit through the novel in various ways.
By the way, the most fun I had in the writing process was when I was writing that interrogation scene. It just about wrote itself. And it cracked me up, laugh out loud, as I wrote it.