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Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, April 9th, 2003


 

The Diary of Adam and Eve: and Other Adamic Stories (Hesperus Press)

by Mark Twain

The Classics of Brevity

A review by Adrienne Miller

Bravo to Hesperus, a marvelous new publishing house dedicated to the noble pursuit of rescuing obscure-to-semi-obscure classic short books (each clocking in at roughly 100 pages) from history's dustbin. Created by an Italian husband-and-wife duo, and based in London, Hesperus produces its books (many of which are out-of-print in the U.S.) with fantastic care -- from the dynamic new translations, to the snazzy covers, to the sharp (and mercifully brief) introductions by writers like Germaine Greer (on Flaubert's Memoir of a Madman) and John Updike (on Mark Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve). These cute paperbacks are inspired choices for reissue: Alexander Pope's nasty little satire Scriblerus, Gogol's mad novella The Squabble ("Ivan Ivanovitch is a splendid man! He's very fond of melons. They're his favourite food!"), and Theophile Gautier's (the man who coined the phrase "art for art's sake," we learn in the author bio [I'm now going to pretend I never thought Oscar Wilde first said that]) witty novel The Jinx and Leonardo da Vinci's Prophecies ("To speak well of a wicked man is the same as to speak ill of a good man"). With the exception of The Metamorphosis and Heart of Darkness, these titles have largely been lost to the general reading public; how exciting that they've been made available to us in these exquisitely cool little volumes.


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