One-Minute Book Reviews

August 20, 2007

E.O. Parrott’s ‘How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening’: Great Books in a Half-Cracked Nutshell

Filed under: Classics,Essays and Reviews,Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:09 am
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Classic works of lit / Reduced quite a bit / In poems and prose / As fun overflows.

How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening: A Collection of Literary Encapsulations. Compiled and Edited by E.O. Parrott. Penguin, 188 pp., varied prices.

By Janice Harayda

Week after week, one of the most popular posts this site has been a review of E. O. Parrott’s How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/11/20/, which illustrates the different types of poetry though amusing and self-descriptive verse. No less delightful is Parrott’s How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening, a collection of 150 brief and witty summaries of classic novels, plays and poems.

In this tongue-in-cheek volume, Tim Hopkins gives you Othello in 10 tabloid headline parodies, including GIRL WITH EVERYTHING ASKS FOR MOOR. And Basil Ransome-Davies shows how an overeager publicist might have promoted The Bostonians: “He’s done it again! Our guess is that’s what you’ll be saying to yourself when you read Henry James’s latest exposé of upper-crust Boston …”

But most of the 31 contributors turn the classics into verse. V. Ernest Cox sums up The Old Man and the Sea in a limerick that begins:

There was an old man of the sea,
Who for eight-four days went fish-free,
But he rowed out next day,
And almost straightaway
Struck gold – piscatorially …

Paul Griffin describes A Christmas Carol in a clerihew that has as its first quatrain:

Ebenezer Scrooge
Was nobody’s stooge;
It drove him into one of his rages
When somebody asked for more wages …

And Peter Norman gives you The Great Gatsby in iambic tetrameter:

Nick Carraway and Gatsby (Jay)
Are next-door neighbors; every day
The enigmatic Gatsby gazes
Towards a distant green light (Daisy’s).

Apart from their entertainment value, these light-hearted verses could work well as teaching aids. Anybody want to guess what novel inspired W.S. Brownlie’s: “A captain with an idée fixe / Chased a whale for weeks and weeks”?

Best line: Some of the literary encapsulations take the form of song parodies, such as Cox’s: “The animals stage a coup d’état, / Hurrah! Hurrah! /And from the farm all humans bar, / Hurrah! Hurrah!” [Note: Show the world you're a genius by being the first to name the book and song – known by more than one title – that inspired this. Jan]

Worst line: The copyright line, which suggests that this book is overdue for a reprint.

Caveat lector: The third and fourth lines of the Hemingway limerick should be intended four spaces, but I couldn’t make it happen.

Published: 1985

Furthermore: Please feel free to entertain visitors to this site by leaving your own encapsulations — of new or old books — as Comments.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

3 Comments »

  1. “A captain with an idée fixe / Chased a whale for weeks and weeks” – that’s Moby Dick.

    “The animals stage a coup d’état, / Hurrah! Hurrah! /And from the farm all humans bar, / Hurrah! Hurrah!” [Note: Show the world you’re a genius by being the first to name the book and song – known by more than one title – that inspired this.]
    Book: Animal Farm
    Song: The Ants Go Marching One by One, or When Johnny Comes Marching Home

    Comment by speedytexaslibrarian — August 20, 2007 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  2. very nice, lol/. GIRL WITH EVERYTHING ASKS FOR MOOR is a great line.

    Comment by Jak — August 20, 2007 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  3. Speedy: Excellent! You get a gold (Lone) star for knowing all three.

    Jak: So glad you liked it. I debated whether to use GIRL WITH EVERYTHING ASKS FOR MOOR or WIFE SMOTHERED AFTER HANKIE HANKY-PANKY. Thanks for letting me know I chose the right one.
    Jan

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 20, 2007 @ 2:58 pm | Reply


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