THE GOOD NEW: A Tuscan Villa, Shakespeare, and Death

John Glavin
New Academia Publishing, 2018
316 Pages
ISBN 978-0-9986433-7-3 Hardcover

For BULK ORDERS, order directly from New Academia Publishing.

About the Author

John Glavin is recognized as the world’s leading authority on adaptations of Dickens novels to the stage and screen. Glavin adapts a Dickens novel almost annually into a farce for Dickens Universe. He is also the author of After Dickens: Reading, Performance, and Adaptation, and Dickens on Screen, both published by Cambridge University Press. He has recently edited the volume Dickens Adapted. In addition, Glavin is a playwright, whose plays have been produced by The Philadelphia Company and the Washington Arts Theatre, and a former board member of Washington’s New Playwrights Theater. He has taught writing for stage and screen for over three decades. He is also the Director of Georgetown Office of Fellowships, Awards, and Research (GOFAR).

His work has been discussed in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Tampa Tribune, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, The London Evening Standard, The Globe and Mail, and The Irish Times.

He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, the former Margaret O’Keeffe.

About the book

Shakespeare wrote more plays about Italy than any other place in his own world. In this memoir, author John Glavin returns to Italy after decades away to teach Shakespeare’s Italian plays to contemporary American students. As Glavin notes, “There’s Italy, and there’s Shakespeare, and there’s the Villa. The Villa gets you to a place where you can see yourself in a way that you couldn’t if you didn’t have Shakespeare as the optic.” In the process they all come to understand themselves and their own lives in deep and revealing ways.

Glavin is trying to come to terms with his wife’s recent battle with cancer, only to discover that one of his Italian relations has been kidnapped and murdered by the mafia. Suddenly the betrayals of Merchant of Venice and the murders of Othello are no longer matters of the past. At the same time his students, who only want a Shakespeare relevant to themselves, learn that they may gain more by making themselves relevant to Shakespeare.

Written primarily as a first-person travel diary, The New Good is divided into three roughly equal parts from September to November. The entries vary, but Mondays and Wednesdays always focus on the two class meetings. Mondays generally discuss the Shakespeare play under scrutiny. Wednesdays cover the students’ usually comic but sometimes quite moving attempts to perform short scenes or speeches from that play. By no means limited to its academic background, The New Good often travels beyond Fiesole, including the author’s reluctant investigation–at his cousin’s request–into her young son’s suspicious “suicide.”

This is a book for anyone who loves literature, or who loves Italy. But it is also a book for any reader who is alert to, and alarmed by, one of the pressing issues of our time. As a writer for The New York Times put it recently “What’s the point of college?” Everywhere you turn, you see books that ask this question in academic and theoretical ways. They have titles like Is College Worth It or College Unbound, or College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be.

There are even articles like Verlyn Klinkenborg’s elegiac “The Decline and Fall of the English Major.” This book responds to that crisis and these questions, not with theory or data, but with experience. Through their Tuscan autumn the Villa students discover, and their often bewildered instructor re-discovers, the purpose of literature for English majors and everyone else who reads: to help us as individuals to recognize, tolerate and, where possible, relieve our species’ troubling –and winning– imperfections. No one who reads The New Good will finish it with any lingering doubt whether College is indeed worth it.


“I had this professor in college named John Glavin, and he was my screenwriting and playwriting professor. One of the things he said that I think has had a profound effect on my life was, ‘[When you don’t like a] book or play or movie, the onus is actually on you to…investigate what’s going on and maybe challenge yourself to dig deeper into the material and learn from it.’ [It] actually is good to follow. It’s good to learn how to follow and listen.”

—Mike Birbiglia in The New York Times (“Great Moments in Inspiration,” September 27, 2012). He is a Comedian, Actor, Filmmaker, Sleepwalk with Me, Don’t Think Twice.

“A captivating, quirky book to warm and melt the chilly, hard hearts of sophisticates: Glavin is part travel writer, part Shakespeare scholar, part novelist—and the mixture ends up a delight. Just turn the page and there you are, a knowledgeable, entertaining Italianophile.”

—Fay Weldon, CBE, Novelist and Writer. The Life and Loves of a She Devil, Upstairs Downstairs, Life for Christine.

“Everything I know about drama I learned from John Glavin.”

—Jonah Nolan, Writer of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and Creator of Person of Interest and Westworld.

“So there was this one famous screenwriting class. It was a playwriting class, but he had been transitioning it into a screenwriting class. He was this guy named Professor Glavin and he ran his class like the military and he had a student graduate the year before Mike and I started. His name was Jonah, and he had written a movie with his brother who had made a small movie, and Professor Glavin gave us all a copy of the script. Mike and I read the script and Mike’s like, “This is going to be the most amazing movie,” and I was like, “This is never going to make any sense. No one is going to go see this movie.” Lo and behold, the brothers got their movie made, and it came out in theaters maybe six of seven months later, and we went to go see it and it blew both of our minds. And that movie is called MEMENTO, and the rest is history.”

—Thoughts from Zal Batmanglij director and co-writer of The Sound of My Voice, featured at Sundance last year.