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Original Essays | August 21, 2014

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    Before, During, After

    Richard Bausch 9780307266262

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Classics for Pleasure

Classics for Pleasure Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Classics for pleasure? To some readers this may seem an oxymoron. Aren't classics supposed to be difficult, esoteric, and probably a little boring? . . . I sympathize with this common view, even if  it is largely wrong.  Classics are classics not because they are educational, but because people have found them worth reading, generation after generation, century after century.  More than anything else, great books speak to us of our own all-too-real feelings, confusions and daydreams

This is not, your father's—or your mother's--list of classics. In these delightful essays, Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Dirda introduces nearly ninety of the world's most entertaining books. Writing with affection as well as authority, Dirda covers masterpieces of fantasy and science fiction, horror and adventure, as well as of biography and history, poetry and children's literature. Organized thematically, these are the works that have shaped our imaginations and inspired our dreams and adventures. Here are Sappho's yearnings and the Arthurian romances, the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the ghost stories of M. R. James, the classic fairy tales and the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer.

Dirda approaches each of his chosen titles as a passionate reader rather than as a critic or scholar. He points us to new authors, less familiar classics, and genre titles often excluded from the canon. Whether writing about Petronius or S. J. Perelman, H. P. Lovecraft or the Icelandic sagas, Michael Dirda makes literature come alive. Full of surprises and wit, Classics for Pleasure is a perfect companion for any reading group or lover of books.

Review:

"In this casually brilliant collection of 'great book' recommendations, Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize — winning critic for the Washington Post Book World, discusses titles ranging from well-known favorites such as Sherlock Holmes and Beowulf to more obscure writers such as Jaroslav Hasek and John Masefield. Dirda is a charming and exceedingly well-read host, erudite without slipping into pretension. He is more generous and less canonical than Harold Bloom, to whose work Dirda owes a debt in style and substance. The book creates a pleasurable but somewhat maddening sensation in the committed reader, who will be tempted to read most of Dirda's selections based on his brief summations. The complete works of Christopher Marlowe are summed up in five eventful pages, and Dirda makes Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire sound so essential over the course of three pages that one forgets it would take the better part of a year to actually read. Dirda's greatest accomplishment, however, is rescuing many formerly illustrious masters from the dustbin of our culture's pitifully short memory: James Agee, G.K. Chesterton and Ernst Junger are just three who benefit from their inclusion in this indispensable volume." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Perhaps the most difficult thing about the 'classics' is deciding what they are in the first place. Michael Dirda, whose taste is impeccable, has written a group of short essays, arranged under useful headings, about a rather iconoclastic and unusual roster of authors whom he regards as 'classic.' Some of them — not many, frankly — are books and writers almost any educated person would accept as... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE
 
"It is hard to think of another writer who loves books so passionately, who has such broad tastes and impeccably high standards—and who writes about literature with such intelligence, generosity, and enthusiasm. Michael Dirda is a cultural treasure." —Francine Prose
 
"Michael Dirda's honest and careful perceptions have been crafted for people who read. He has the wonderful ability to make us feel as intelligent as he is."—Guy Davenport

"This book is full of short, sharp loving Shocks of Appreciation, cunningly arranged in sequences we would have never dreamed up--I doubt George Meredith, C  P Cavafy, Georgette Heyer and Anna Akhmatova have ever been juxtaposed before--but which add up to a vision far greater than the sum of its parts.."--John Clute

"Michael Dirda is the best-read person in America.  But he doesnt rub it in."--Michael Kinsley, Time columnist and former editor of Slate

Synopsis:

In these delightful essays, Pulitzer Prize-winner Dirda introduces nearly 90 of the worlds most entertaining books. Writing with affection as well as authority, Dirda covers masterpieces of fantasy and science fiction, horror and adventure, as well as epics, history, and childrens literature.

About the Author

MICHAEL DIRDA received the Pulitzer Prize for his literary criticism in the Washington Post Book World. He is the author of the memoir An Open Book, as well as several collections of essays, most recently Bound to Please (a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award) and Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

 

Introduction • 1

Playful Imaginations

Lucian • 5

Denis Diderot • 8

Thomas Love Peacock • 11

Max Beerbohm • 14

Jaroslav Ha?sek • 18

Ivy Compton-Burnett • 22

S. J. Perelman • 25

Italo Calvino • 29

Edward Gorey • 32

 

Heroes of Their Time

Beowulf 38

Abolqasem Ferdowsi • 41

The Icelandic Sagas • 44

Christopher Marlowe • 48

Émile Zola • 52

Ernst Jünger • 55

James Agee • 60

 

Loves Mysteries

Sappho • 65

Arthurian Romances • 67

Marie-Madeleine de La Fayette • 71

Sören Kierkegaard • 73

George Meredith • 76

C. P. Cavafy • 81

Georgette Heyer • 84

Anna Akhmatova • 88

Daphne du Maurier • 92

 

Words from the Wise

Lao-tse • 96

Heraclitus • 98

Cicero • 100

Erasmus • 102

The English Religious Tradition • 106

Benedict de Spinoza • 111

Samuel Johnson • 116

 

Everyday Magic

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 122

The Classic Fairy Tales • 125

E. T. A. Hoffmann • 128

Prosper Mérimée • 131

Frances Hodgson Burnett • 134

E. Nesbit/John Mase?eld • 136

Walter de la Mare • 141

 

Lives of Consequence

Plutarch • 148

Girolamo Cardano • 151

John Aubrey • 153

Alexander Pope • 156

Jean-Jacques Rousseau • 159

Frederick Douglass • 164

Jacob Burckhardt • 168

Henry James • 170

W. H. Auden • 174

 

The Dark Side

John Webster • 182

Mary Shelley • 185

James Hogg • 188

Sheridan Le Fanu • 192

Bram Stoker • 196

M. R. James • 199

William Roughead • 203

H. P. Lovecraft • 206

 

Travelers Tales

Thomas More • 212

Daniel Defoe • 214

Xavier de Maistre • 217

Jules Verne • 220

J. K. Huysmans • 224

Isak Dinesen • 226

Robert Byron • 230

 

The Way We Live Now

Petronius • 234

Elizabeth Gaskell • 237

Ivan Goncharov • 241

José Maria Eça de Queiros • 244

Anton Chekhov • 248

Jean Toomer • 251

Willa Cather • 254

Louis-Ferdinand Céline • 257

Zora Neale Hurston • 261

Eudora Welty • 264

 

Realms of Adventure

H. Rider Haggard • 270

Arthur Conan Doyle • 274

Rudyard Kipling • 277

H. G. Wells • 280

G. K. Chesterton • 283

Agatha Christie • 287

Dashiell Hammett • 290

 

Encyclopedic Visions

Ovid • 295

Robert Burton • 297

Edward Gibbon • 301

J. G. Frazer • 304

H. W. Fowler • 307

Ezra Pound • 311

André Malraux • 314

Philip K. Dick • 317

 

Envoi • 321

Appendix: A Chronological Index of the Authors • 322

Acknowledgments • 324

Index • 325

 

 

Product Details

ISBN:
9780151012510
Publisher:
Mariner Books
Subject:
General
Author:
Dirda, Michael
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Subject:
Books & Reading
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Literature
Subject:
Canon (literature)
Subject:
Literature -- History and criticism.
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20081110
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1.33 lb

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Essays
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Reference » Book Clubs

Classics for Pleasure
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 352 pages Harcourt - English 9780151012510 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this casually brilliant collection of 'great book' recommendations, Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize — winning critic for the Washington Post Book World, discusses titles ranging from well-known favorites such as Sherlock Holmes and Beowulf to more obscure writers such as Jaroslav Hasek and John Masefield. Dirda is a charming and exceedingly well-read host, erudite without slipping into pretension. He is more generous and less canonical than Harold Bloom, to whose work Dirda owes a debt in style and substance. The book creates a pleasurable but somewhat maddening sensation in the committed reader, who will be tempted to read most of Dirda's selections based on his brief summations. The complete works of Christopher Marlowe are summed up in five eventful pages, and Dirda makes Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire sound so essential over the course of three pages that one forgets it would take the better part of a year to actually read. Dirda's greatest accomplishment, however, is rescuing many formerly illustrious masters from the dustbin of our culture's pitifully short memory: James Agee, G.K. Chesterton and Ernst Junger are just three who benefit from their inclusion in this indispensable volume." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by ,
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE
 
"It is hard to think of another writer who loves books so passionately, who has such broad tastes and impeccably high standards—and who writes about literature with such intelligence, generosity, and enthusiasm. Michael Dirda is a cultural treasure." —Francine Prose
 
"Michael Dirda's honest and careful perceptions have been crafted for people who read. He has the wonderful ability to make us feel as intelligent as he is."—Guy Davenport

"This book is full of short, sharp loving Shocks of Appreciation, cunningly arranged in sequences we would have never dreamed up--I doubt George Meredith, C  P Cavafy, Georgette Heyer and Anna Akhmatova have ever been juxtaposed before--but which add up to a vision far greater than the sum of its parts.."--John Clute

"Michael Dirda is the best-read person in America.  But he doesnt rub it in."--Michael Kinsley, Time columnist and former editor of Slate

"Synopsis" by , In these delightful essays, Pulitzer Prize-winner Dirda introduces nearly 90 of the worlds most entertaining books. Writing with affection as well as authority, Dirda covers masterpieces of fantasy and science fiction, horror and adventure, as well as epics, history, and childrens literature.
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