Why Read the Classics? (Penguin Modern Classics)

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9780141189703: Why Read the Classics? (Penguin Modern Classics)

Why Read the Classics? is an elegant defence of the value of great literature by one of the finest authors of the last century. Beginning with an essay on the attributes that define a classic (number one - classics are those books that people always say they are 'rereading', not 'reading'), this is an absorbing collection of Italo Calvino's witty and passionate criticism.

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Why read Italo Calvino's book on the classics? Because it passes his own test for what a classic is, and its brisk prose can blast your concept of the word clean of the dusty associations that cling to it. Calvino gives 14 offbeat definitions of classic, my favorite being "a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off." His sharp essays on Conrad, Dickens, Diderot, Flaubert, Ovid, and others constitute an act of self-criticism too, a novelist's imaginative autobiography. In 1955, when rave-reviewing Robinson Crusoe, he called Daniel Defoe the "inventor of modern journalism." In 1954, he overcame his disgust with Hemingway's life "of violent tourism," coolly assessed his dry heights and sodden depths, and called himself Papa's apprentice. And the 1984 piece on Borges shows who influenced Calvino most once he'd become a master himself.

From both the American and the Argentinian, Calvino learned to be concise, and his quick sketches of books like the "unqualified masterpiece" Our Mutual Friend provide a contact high--one wants to drop everything and head straight to a library, so infectious is his enthusiasm. "How many young people will be smitten" by Stendhal's recently, brilliantly retranslated Waterloo-era adventure The Charterhouse of Parma, he writes, "recognizing it as the novel they had always wanted to read... the benchmark for all the other novels they will read in later life." Like a great teacher, Italo Calvino distills a writer's essence in a vivid phrase: money, for instance, serves as "the motive force of Balzac's narrative, the true test of feeling in Dickens; but in Mark Twain money is a game of mirrors, causing vertigo over a void." --Tim Appelo

From the Inside Flap:

From the internationally-acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light.

Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunner of modern-day science-fiction writers. Learn how many odysseys The Odyssey contains, and why Hemingway's Nick Adams stories are a pinnacle of twentieth-century literature. From Ovid to Pavese, Xenophon to Dickens, Galileo to Gadda, Calvino covers the classics he has loved most with essays that are fresh, accessible, and wise. Why Read the Classics? firmly establishes Calvino among the rare likes of Nabokov, Borges, and Lawrence--writers whose criticism is as vibrant and unique as their groundbreaking fiction.  

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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Why Read the Classics?, Italo Calvino, Martin McLaughlin, Tim Parks, Martin McLaughlin, Patrick Creagh, "Why Read the Classics?" is an elegant defence of the value of great literature by one of the finest authors of the last century. Beginning with an essay on the attributes that define a classic (number one - classics are those books that people always say they are 'rereading', not 'reading'), this is an absorbing collection of Italo Calvino's witty and passionate criticism. Bookseller Inventory # B9780141189703

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