How to Become Ridiculously Well Read in One Evening

Picking up where I left off in January, here is a blast from the past. I plan to post these on Mondays until I run out of them. I will correct them for spelling/typing errors and bad grammar and add formatting where I think it is necessary for clarity and reading ease, but will avoid editing them unless I think it's absolutely necessary. They do not necessarily express opinions I hold now. I may add comments to some of them.

Originally published in July 2004, in 2 parts
Book 24 in my first 52 books challenge.

Compiled and edited by: E.O. Parrott
Year published: 1985
Genre: Poetry, pastiche, prose
Where got: Public library

I came across this amusing little volume while browsing in the library. It’s a collection of humorous summaries of some of the famous literary works considered (by some) necessary for a person to be well read, and therefore splendidly suited for someone who is trying to read more. It includes summaries of works both by English-speaking authors and works that have been translated into English from other languages. Most of it is in verse, but some pieces are in the form of prose, all in a variety of styles.

Here’s a short sample of what this book has to offer - incidentally also the shortest piece in the book:

“D.H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by Wendy Cope:

Smart girls make passes
At the working classes.

When I began reading this book in earnest I quickly realized it was no use to read the pieces on books I hadn’t read, because in order to enjoy humorous literary encapsulations like this, you must be familiar with the original literary works. So I have merely skimmed those pieces and only read in full the ones on books I have read and/or seen the movie version of.

The majority of the pieces are in verse form. Among the forms used are haiku, limericks and blank verse. Some of the others are in the form of very short plays, others in epistolary form or stream-of-consciousness. There are pieces on 155 books, some few books have had two pieces written about them, but most only one.

In the introduction to this book I called it ‘amusing’ and that is all it is. I have smiled several times at some clever verses that summarise, if not the actual contents, than at least the spirit of the book in question. More often, though, I have frowned at half-rhymes, tortuous rhymes, rhymes that don’t rhyme and lines that don’t scan but should. Of course, I never expected the verses to have the kind of quality that makes poetry immortal, but there is an incredible amount of badly written poetry in there. Some of it makes up for the lack of proper rhyme and scansion by virtue of wit, being worth a half-smile, a chuckle, or a smirk when it reveals some silliness about the original.

Rating: Presented in haiku form as befits the book. Whether it be good haiku or bad haiku, I leave up to the reader to decide.

Literature summed,
Sometimes funny, sometimes not,
2 stars and that’s a lot.


Dorte H said…
I have tried to teach my students about brief summaries. Perhaps I should suggest they write in verse?

Marriage provokes son
Procrastinates, deliberates,
Commits mistakes
Victory dearly won

(Not very good, but I can´t spend all my blogging tour time here, can I?)
George said…
Love the new look of your blog! Have you read How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard? It might cover some of the same ground.
Bibliophile said…
Dorte, maybe you should. It could double as a lesson in writing poetry.

George, thanks for the recommendation. A trawl through the library database revealed that the local library has a copy, which I will check out next time I go there.

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