Friday, June 01, 2018

Quick Review: Abridged Classics by John Atkinson

Canadian cartoonist John Atkinson's new book, Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed To Read But Probably Didn't (New York: Harper, 2018, $20) appeals to people that love books and comics. It requires a certain level of familiarity with the 'canon' of western literature though, because as the press release notes, "Whether providing a thumbnail sketch of the notoriously long read In Search of Lost Time ("Smell of cake reminds guy of stuff. Four thousand pages of stuff."), translating The Odyssey into an elevator pitch ("War veteran takes forever to get home, then kills everyone."), or boiling down a beloved classic like Peter Pan to its weird basics ("Some kids and a crocodile pester an amputee."), Abridged Classics finds the comedy in taking the shortest route through the literary canon."  If Proust or Homer don't already ring a bell for you, the cartoon that goes along with the punchline probably won't help you out.

The press release goes on to note: This humorous collection abbreviates over a hundred works of literature from some of the world's most-revered authors, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, James Joyce, Plato, Ernest Hemingway, Dan Brown, Ayn Rand, and Herman Melville. This book will probably appeal to people that read the New Yorker for the cartoons, or enjoy Tom Gauld's reading-themed cartoons. Personally, I enjoyed it and recommended it to my wife.

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