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ShrinkLits: Seventy of the World's Towering Classics Cut Down to Size

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From Antigone to Lolita, from Beowulf to The Hobbit. The world's greatest literature is summarized in Maurice Sagoff's hilarious light verse. The result-70 intoxicating distillations of the classics everyone has been taking far too seriously for far too long. Selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club and a New York Times Best Seller. 180,000 copies in print.


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From Antigone to Lolita, from Beowulf to The Hobbit. The world's greatest literature is summarized in Maurice Sagoff's hilarious light verse. The result-70 intoxicating distillations of the classics everyone has been taking far too seriously for far too long. Selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club and a New York Times Best Seller. 180,000 copies in print.

30 review for ShrinkLits: Seventy of the World's Towering Classics Cut Down to Size

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    Pretty uneven – some of these are clever, many are just “meh.” A few, like The Hobbit which, uniquely, gets two poems to allow Sagoff to fully express his scorn for the work, are just dumb and pretentious. (Here is “Hobbit [2]”) ”Hobbit-hole (“Bag End”) is small, Opening on a tube-shaped hall Through which Bilbo is deployed. (Are you listening, Sigmund Freud?) Thus begins a life-long quest Fraught with every horrid test Man must undergo, at length To achieve his ego-strength And identity. The story Teems w Pretty uneven – some of these are clever, many are just “meh.” A few, like The Hobbit which, uniquely, gets two poems to allow Sagoff to fully express his scorn for the work, are just dumb and pretentious. (Here is “Hobbit [2]”) ”Hobbit-hole (“Bag End”) is small, Opening on a tube-shaped hall Through which Bilbo is deployed. (Are you listening, Sigmund Freud?) Thus begins a life-long quest Fraught with every horrid test Man must undergo, at length To achieve his ego-strength And identity. The story Teems with brilliant allegory! Dragons, goblins, spiders, elves – Are they not our darker selves? Middle Earth is simply rife With symbologies of Life: “Misty Mount” – Parnassus? Sinai? – View it through your fancy's fine eye: “There and Back Again” – that's Hegel! “Magic Ring” – perhaps a bagel? “Thirteen dwarves” – a human clone? Buy the book and roll your own. Most of them are better than that, anyway. I thought his take on A Doll's House, by Ibsen, was particularly snappy. ”Husband treats her like a doll, Nora's just a toy, that's all. Comes a time when Thorwald's ill – How to pay the doctor's bill? For his sake, but secretly, Nora stoops to forgery; One of Thorwald's workers knows – “Save my job or I'll expose!” When he learns of Nora's plight, Thorwald reams her out of sight! Where she hoped he might be big, He just proved an M.C. Pig. Wiser now, she's set to rough it; His forgiveness? He can stuff it. Doll no more, she hoists her jib, Slams the door! Joins Women's Lib. Antigone, Lolita, and The Great Gatsby are also good, and for a fifty cent library sale purchase this was okay, but if you skip it you aren't missing much.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    A real time-saver and a genuine service to hew-manity! Har-de-har-har. "Holed up With bunny, Pre-teen Acts funny, Aberrations - Hallucinations - Wild Scenes - Tarts, Queens - Clearly, she Needs therapy."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sanja_Sanjalica

    Really funny at times, at other times obscure, if you want a laugh, read this, for sure.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This little book packs a huge punch with witty and pithy poems that sum up classic novels in a few brief stanzas.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephy

    To enjoy this book, you must have actually Read the books that Maurice Sagoff has "shrunk" into "Shrinklets, Seventy of the world's towering classics cut down to size". I might have preferred "Gilgamesh" to say, "Lolita", and even shrunk, "Catcher in the Rye" is still dull, but blessedly shorter.I love this book. Messers Strunk and White would have approved. Their motto was "Omit Needless Words." If you find yourself educated in Literature, these little bits are Gems, easily memorized to startle To enjoy this book, you must have actually Read the books that Maurice Sagoff has "shrunk" into "Shrinklets, Seventy of the world's towering classics cut down to size". I might have preferred "Gilgamesh" to say, "Lolita", and even shrunk, "Catcher in the Rye" is still dull, but blessedly shorter.I love this book. Messers Strunk and White would have approved. Their motto was "Omit Needless Words." If you find yourself educated in Literature, these little bits are Gems, easily memorized to startle one's friends, my personal favorite is quoted in part, here: "Beowulf" Monster Grendel's tastes are plainish. Breakfast? Just a couple Danish. King of Danes if frantic, very. Wait! Here comes the Malmö ferry Bringing Beowulf, his neighbor, Mighty Swinger with a saber! Find The "ShrinkLits Book" for more.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sherry (sethurner)

    What if a person took the notion of a condensed book to the extreme? You'd have a copy of Shrink Lits! The author rewrites classic literature in just a few short lines of poetry. The results are hilarious. "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe Raven lurches in perches over door. Query -- Where's Lenore? Creepy bird Knows one word: Nevermore.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Gallo

    From: https://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com "We live in the Google Era, where information comes so fast, it’s like drinking out of a fire hose. That information overload combined with the prevalence of apps like Twitter and TikTok has dramatically decreased the reader’s attention span to 144 characters or 15 seconds — whichever comes first. With that kind of an attention span, who is ever going to take the time to read literary classics. And let’s face it — some of these classics run a little lon From: https://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com "We live in the Google Era, where information comes so fast, it’s like drinking out of a fire hose. That information overload combined with the prevalence of apps like Twitter and TikTok has dramatically decreased the reader’s attention span to 144 characters or 15 seconds — whichever comes first. With that kind of an attention span, who is ever going to take the time to read literary classics. And let’s face it — some of these classics run a little long; for example, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes runs about 900 pages (containing more than 180,000 words), while Moby-Dick by Herman Melville runs about 700 pages (containing 135 chapters, and more than 209,117 words). If you read 250 words per minute, it would take about 19 hours to read Don Quixote and 14 hours to read Moby-Dick. (Incidentally, at readinglength[dot]com you can enter any book title and see how long it takes to read it based on your own reading speed). Who has that kind of time? That’s where Maurice Sagoff’s little book, ShrinkLits comes in. Sagoff has managed to shrink 70 of the world’s most famous literary classics down to size. If you have a minute, you can read a summary of one of the classics, like Don Quixote, Moby-Dick, King Lear, or The Great Gatsby. Here is the ShrinkLit version of Melville’s magnum opus, Moby Dick. Whale chomped Ahab’s leg in two. “Hunt that beast! he tells his crew. First, a welter of whaling schmooze, Then comes Moby and hell breaks loose. Smashup! Ahab’s drowned in brine, Lashed to the whale by a harpoon line. Good (symbolic) with Evil vies, If you’d fathom it, you must rise.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    "Inside every fat book is a skinny book trying to get out". That is the premise of this short book of poems that give a poetic synopsis of famous books. Some of the rhymes are quite clever but most of them fell flat for me. Admittedly I have not read many of the books that are referenced so my opinion is a bit skewed I surmise. I do rather like the author's take on Jane Eyre: "My Love behaved a bit erratic; Our nuptial day Brought truth dramatic: He had a wife, Mad, in an attic. I fled! I roamed O'e "Inside every fat book is a skinny book trying to get out". That is the premise of this short book of poems that give a poetic synopsis of famous books. Some of the rhymes are quite clever but most of them fell flat for me. Admittedly I have not read many of the books that are referenced so my opinion is a bit skewed I surmise. I do rather like the author's take on Jane Eyre: "My Love behaved a bit erratic; Our nuptial day Brought truth dramatic: He had a wife, Mad, in an attic. I fled! I roamed O'er moor and ditch. When life had struck Its lowest pitch, An uncle died And left me rich. I sought my love Again, to find An awful fire His home had mined, Kippered his wife And left him blind. Reader, guess what? I married him. My cup is filled Up to the brim: Now we are one We play, we swim. This power we share Defies all pain: We soar above Life's tangled plain - He Mr. Rochester, Me Jane!"

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The author observes that "inside every fat book is a skinny book trying to get out," and delivers tongue-in-cheek couplets in their service. This book was published in 1980, and I was afraid that the humor would be a little dated, but no. I even laughed out loud a few times.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    Amazing little book! Seventy classic works, fiction and non-fiction, each reduced to a small page of rhymes. Jane Eyre in 30 lines, Canterbury Tales in 21, Candide in 20, The Communist Manifesto in 8. It makes Cliffs Notes seem like a veritable tome. Quite amusing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    This is a fun book. It takes 70 classics and pares it down to one or two small pages of verse. I enjoyed it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Amusing. Sometimes does enough to give the gist of the book. Sometimes I don't recognize a book I know well I'd have liked a translation for the Latin

  13. 4 out of 5

    Noah McClintock

    Some of it is kind of clever, and some of it is a bit lazy. I do enjoy the illustrations.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Liz Banks

    This is very clever and it's illustrated. The author condenses 70 literary classics into 70 short poems. It made me smile.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Annie M.

    A quaint little book that gives concise summaries of some of the classics of literature. I love the brief, fun poems that give you an idea of what each book is about. A fun, quick read!

  16. 5 out of 5

    librarian4Him02

    I'm not sure how or where I acquired this book, but suspect it may have been a stocking stuffer one Christmas past. At any rate, I'm trying to get my reading total up for 2018 and this was one of the shorter books on my shelves, so I went with it. The premise is interesting and the short poems creative. Yet overall I felt kind of meh about this read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Surreysmum

    [These notes were made in 1986:]. This is cute, clever, and reasonably literate. Some of the "poems" are fairly straight (tho' tongue-in-cheek) reductions of plot and situation; some also contain less-than-flattering comment on the masterworks themselves. The range is wide - everything from Beowulf to Kinsey!

  18. 5 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    Clever and sometimes genuinely funny, these are sing-song little renditions of some of the intimidating literature of the world. They are also illustrated in an engaging cartoon fashion. As a quibble, there may be some factual errors in the poems. But actually educating one about books is presumably not the point of the volume.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Fun, but you do need to know the classics to fully appreciate the cleverness. And this just reminds me of how many I don't know!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Fun read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Clever little poems. Mostly for well-read English nerds. My Advanced students might like these.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Donald Fike

    Poetic 1-2 page summaries of classic literature. Some very informative. Some clever

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    If you wanted to cut a classic book down to a short clever poem, this is it. Cleaver, witty, and just plain fun to read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    Clever, which is always a treat. Concise, which I can never be. All of which leaves me highly impressed and often tickled.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I've never enjoyed Hemingway more than when "A Farewell to Arms" was just a silly little poem!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Clever, but like others commenters have said, I don't think it's that easy to understand the gist of the ones you haven't read yourself.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anne Farmer

    This is a fantastic mini classic. It's a crash course in the literary canon.

  28. 5 out of 5

    MsBrie

    Will it be as excellent as The 5 Minute Iliad ? Only time will tell

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Absolutely freaking hilarious little book. Clever stuff. My favorite was "Lolita." "Effable," indeed. A scream.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie

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