Bibliographical Information and Ordering

John W. Velz
Exit Pursued by a Bear: Encounters with Shakespeare and Shakespeareans
ISBN: 978-0-9796060-1-4

For now, the publishing address is:

LawProse, Inc.
Pacific Center 1
Suite 280
14180 Dallas Parkway
Dallas, TX  75254

I will update the information as I can.

I have a few copies: send me an email if you’re interested in ordering it and I’ll shoot you one:

Here are two of John’s favorite stories from his collection. They are most characteristic of him, and always improved a bit in the telling.

13.  Shakespeare in the ICU (pp. 23-25)

     In March of 1965 I was driving to my 8 a.m. class at Rice University from my home in West University Place when a young woman inadvertently ran a red light and hit my pastel blue Triumph Herald broadside in the intersection. She was approaching the intersection in the left lane of a two-lane stream of rush-hour traffic, and the cars ahead of her were waiting to make a left turn toward the Rice University campus. She looked back and saw no car in the right lane, so she darted into it and stepped on the gas, failing to look again at the light, which had turned red in the meantime. She caught me right on the driver’s-side door and demolished the car completely. The top was down and the seat belt broke—which together saved my life, as I was thrown clear of the car just as she went right through it, leaving wreckage behind her. Someone told me that very little was left of my Triumph afterward. Her momentum carried her forward, destroying two other cars coming toward her on the other side of the intersection. It was the curb that made a hole in the left side of my head, smashed the left shoulder and inside of the right knee, and broke the tibia in the right leg. Though I was first thought dead on arrival at a receiving hospital in Houston, they revived me and nudged me back to life over time in the intensive-care unit. I have no memory of this at all, having total amnesia after the image of the car coming at me; the next memory I have is of being wheeled down a corridor on a gurney to a private room ten days later.
     There was a great deal of aftermath, including a lawsuit against the young woman’s father’s insurance company. My attorney subpoenaed the ICU records for the ten days I spent in intensive care. The case was settled on the courthouse steps, and I remember seeing the young woman—for the first and only time—in the courtroom. She was a demure, churchgoing young woman, 19 at the time of the accident, and it is hard for me now to envision her well into her sixties as I write this. After all was said and done, I got a call from my attorney one day, saying that he wanted to deliver some papers to me. He delivered a bulky package to my house and said, “Read through these records. You will find them interesting.” I wondered, “Why?” but he just smiled and went away.
     I sat down to leaf through the records of hour-minute-second readings of blood pressure, pulse, and every single bodily movement I made in the intensive-care unit. An hour later, a couple of days deep in the pile of records, I began to see what the attorney found so interesting about them. After recording time, blood pressure, and pulse, one entry read, “Here Mr. Velz recited a Shakespeare sonnet and then vomited.” A bit later, “Here Mr. Velz quoted what sounded like the first stanza of The Faerie Queene and then said, ‘Oh, God!’” There was more of the same scattered throughout. I laughed off and on for about a week over this record of Shakespeare and others in the ICU. The duty nurse must have been an English major at one time to recognize so much Shakespeare as I recited, including lines from many of his plays and poems.
     The story is plausible enough on the whole, though I have no memory of the recorded events. When I was bored in English class in high school, I would memorize poetry from the anthology open before us and then recite it aloud to myself when working alone in my father’s fields or at the woodpile. At one time I had many thousands of lines in my head. Of these thousands, it was Shakespeare and Spenser who emerged first from my deep memory in the ICU, and only deeper into my ten-day stay came Tennyson and Housman, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Hardy, and Dylan Thomas.  At one time I was able to recite from memory my lines from the plays I had acted in (mainly in French) when in college at the University of Michigan. I suppose I still have tucked away in my subconscious a lot of those bits of Shakespeare and others committed once to memory, but it is my ambition to avoid the ICU where they may come back to light. There is a certain appropriateness that the settlement with the young woman’s insurance company permitted me to spin a seven-month National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship into 27 months, 1967-1969, of full-time research, all of it on topics Shakespearean.

46.  Hymen as Sight Gag (p. 109)

     When the Royal Shakespeare Company produced As You Like It in Stratford in one of the earliest years of this century, there was an interesting innovation in act 5. The god Hymen did not descend from the flies or come on from the wings in the person of the actor playing William, Audrey’s quondam suitor.  “He” was “she” in the first place, a suitable casting for the god of marriage that I had not seen before. But more startling, she entered up the side steps to the stage from a seat in the first row of the stalls stage-right and was handsomely dressed in a full-length full-bodied gown in powder-blue velvet that made her full figure seem more stately than corpulent. And even more impressive, Hymen was an older woman coiffed in a full head of snow-white hair. If there was a murmur in the audience at her appearance, I did not hear it. It was moments later after the final curtain and the curtain calls when the bustling crowd was exiting through the theater lobby that I heard a name first uttered and then picked up by many voices in the lobby and in the street outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre: “Barbara Bush.”