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There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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1 Beaverton Reference- Books on Books

The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read

by

The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In an age when deleted scenes from Adam Sandler movies are saved, it's sobering to realize that some of the world's greatest prose and poetry has gone missing. This witty, wry, and unique new book rectifies that wrong. Part detective story, part history lesson, part exposé, The Book of Lost Books is the first guide to literature's what-ifs and never-weres.

In compulsively readable fashion, Stuart Kelly reveals details about tantalizing vanished works by the famous, the acclaimed, and the influential, from the time of cave drawings to the late twentieth century. Here are the true stories behind stories, poems, and plays that now exist only in imagination:

  • Aristophanes' Heracles, the Stage Manager was one of the playwright's several spoofs that disappeared.
  • Love's Labours Won may have been a sequel to Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost — or was it just an alternative title for The Taming of the Shrew?
  • Jane Austen's incomplete novel Sanditon was a critique of hypochondriacs and cures started when the author was fatally ill.
  • Nikolai Gogol burned the second half of Dead Souls after a religious conversion convinced him that literature was paganism.
  • Some of the thousand pages of William Burroughs's original Naked Lunch were stolen and sold on the street by Algerian street boys.
  • Sylvia Plath's widower, Ted Hughes, claimed that the 130 pages of her second novel, perhaps based on their marriage, were lost after her death.
Whether destroyed (Socrates' versions of Aesop's Fables), misplaced (Malcolm Lowry's Ultramarine was pinched from his publisher's car), interrupted by the author's death (Robert Louis Stevenson's Weir of Hermiston), or simply never begun (Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, America, a second volume of his memoirs), these missing links create a history of literature for a parallel world. Civilized and satirical, erudite yet accessible, The Book of Lost Books is itself a find.

Review:

"Homer's first work, alluded to by Aristotle, was supposedly a comic epic poem. Byron's memoirs were posthumously destroyed, and Ben Jonson didn't live to complete his final play, a pastoral tragicomedy. Flaubert, who suffered seizures that were probably epileptic, kept the text of a scientifically accurate novel about insanity locked up inside his head. At 15, Scottish freelance critic Kelly began compiling a List of Lost Books when he was shocked to learn that there are no extant plays of Agathon, a celebrated fifth century B.C. tragedian and friend of Euripides. 'From Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, Homer to Hemingway, Dante to Ezra Pound, great writers had written works I could not possess,' Kelly laments. 'The entire history of literature was also the history of the loss of literature.' At their best, Kelly's short essays whet the appetite for great works of literature, and serious readers will enjoy scanning these pages looking for curiosities and pondering lost volumes from the oeuvres of Austen, Chaucer and St. Paul. Inevitably, the thesis is more charming than the lengthy execution, and one suspects this would have been much more effective in condensed form as a whimsical article in Harper's or the Atlantic. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"An absolute joy...Kelly's book is as appealing for what it is not as for what it is. In an age of slapdash laundry lists of places to see before you die...The Book of Lost Books is a work of great passion, insight and scholarship." Joe Queenan, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Each lost book has an underlying tale waiting to be read and treasured. This fantastic compendium is highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries and book lovers everywhere." Library Journal

Review:

"[O]ften witty and sometimes poignant....The Book of Lost Books leaves us pensive, imagining all the works that are well and truly lost...and thankful for what remains." Jane Smiley, The Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Never let it be said that there are too many books in the world when so many great ones got away — all those books we don't have because they were variously left on trains, burned, lost, neglected, abandoned, unstarted, or cruelly cut short by the author's demise. After reading Stuart Kelly's clever and enjoyable book, you will feel positively grateful that any survived at all." Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Review:

"A fascinating story about writing, which should be quite new to most people and certainly deserves to be preserved. Stuart Kelly should be allowed to browse among all the libraries of the world." Muriel Spark, author of The Finishing School

About the Author

Stuart Kelly studied English language and literature at Balliol College, Oxford, where he gained a first-class degree. He is a frequent reviewer for Scotland on Sunday and lives with his wife in Edinburgh.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400062973
Author:
Kelly, Stuart
Publisher:
Random House (NY)
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Books & Reading
Subject:
Publishing
Subject:
Lost literature.
Subject:
Lost books -- History.
Subject:
General History
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
April 2006
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
LINE DRAWINGS THROUGHOUT
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9.46x6.54x1.23 in. 1.37 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Rare Books » General
Reference » Books on Books

The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read Used Hardcover
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$8.50 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Random House - English 9781400062973 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Homer's first work, alluded to by Aristotle, was supposedly a comic epic poem. Byron's memoirs were posthumously destroyed, and Ben Jonson didn't live to complete his final play, a pastoral tragicomedy. Flaubert, who suffered seizures that were probably epileptic, kept the text of a scientifically accurate novel about insanity locked up inside his head. At 15, Scottish freelance critic Kelly began compiling a List of Lost Books when he was shocked to learn that there are no extant plays of Agathon, a celebrated fifth century B.C. tragedian and friend of Euripides. 'From Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, Homer to Hemingway, Dante to Ezra Pound, great writers had written works I could not possess,' Kelly laments. 'The entire history of literature was also the history of the loss of literature.' At their best, Kelly's short essays whet the appetite for great works of literature, and serious readers will enjoy scanning these pages looking for curiosities and pondering lost volumes from the oeuvres of Austen, Chaucer and St. Paul. Inevitably, the thesis is more charming than the lengthy execution, and one suspects this would have been much more effective in condensed form as a whimsical article in Harper's or the Atlantic. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "An absolute joy...Kelly's book is as appealing for what it is not as for what it is. In an age of slapdash laundry lists of places to see before you die...The Book of Lost Books is a work of great passion, insight and scholarship."
"Review" by , "Each lost book has an underlying tale waiting to be read and treasured. This fantastic compendium is highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries and book lovers everywhere."
"Review" by , "[O]ften witty and sometimes poignant....The Book of Lost Books leaves us pensive, imagining all the works that are well and truly lost...and thankful for what remains."
"Review" by , "Never let it be said that there are too many books in the world when so many great ones got away — all those books we don't have because they were variously left on trains, burned, lost, neglected, abandoned, unstarted, or cruelly cut short by the author's demise. After reading Stuart Kelly's clever and enjoyable book, you will feel positively grateful that any survived at all."
"Review" by , "A fascinating story about writing, which should be quite new to most people and certainly deserves to be preserved. Stuart Kelly should be allowed to browse among all the libraries of the world."
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