Published: January 3, 2012
Trade paperback, 280 pages
Catchy title and catchy picture on the front cover. It shows a Swiss army knife with caricatures of recognizable authors on each of the blades of the knife.
Sandra Newman has an excellent understanding of ancient and modern literature. There is no other way she could describe so cleverly and give such a succinct overview of the classics. It probably helps that she is an English professor! And it’s done with humor and considerable irreverence. She writes in a fast-paced, sometimes tongue-in-cheek manner that helps when the reader gets bogged down with the ancient stuff.
The author assigns ratings of 1 to 10 to each of the works reviewed in the areas of “Importance”, “Accessibility”, and “Fun”.
I learned a few things along the way. For example, what is the difference between “classical literature” and “the classics”; Heart of Darkness author Joseph Conrad’s real name; what is a “gothic novel” and why it is gothic; who wrote the first novel and the first historical novel; that Tennyson’s “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”, was referring to friendship (he had lost a dear friend in death) not romantic love; and who is the author of “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
I have read some of the more modern authors to whom she refers but none of the ancient writers. But after reading about classical literature I came away wondering why anyone would want to read it, filled as it is with horrible tales of wars, incest, and murder - the base side of human nature?
However, this is a funny, funny book. It will be enjoyed by readers who want a good laugh and/or want to know about the Western world’s greatest literature and/or want to be able to impress people with tidbits from it at their next dinner party.
Note: This book is rated P = profanity for f-words and religious expletives.
You can find more reviews of this book on its TLC Book Tour page.
Reviewed by Sandra
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