Rhapsody in Penguins I — Prelude

People who have known me for quite some time will know that I seem to carry around Penguin Classics a lot and make a show of reading them in front of everyone. While that may be true (at least the “making a show” part), there’s a slight mistake in this line: I really don’t read that many classics. As I write I am staring at my shelf of Penguins, over a quarter of which I have yet to get down to reading. I enjoy buying them with a mind to reading them, but at the rate it’s going I think I’ll need two years to finish all of this.

But nowadays reading doesn’t seem to be enough. We are expected, for some reason or another, to learn from these books, to grow as a human being and become better examples of homo sapiens. Obviously that theory doesn’t hold weight at all — if we all learnt from the books we read we’d have no idiots on Earth and I would be very rich and clever. All the same, I still think that the books we read contain immensely important messages, and it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at them and see just what kind of wisdom it is that they want to impart. With that in mind, I’d like to do a seven-part series on what I have gleaned from the Penguin Classics.

So why the Penguins? This is partially just because I like the designs of Penguins — little black books containing amazing words inside them. But also: it’s because I think that classics (well, most of them — see Morrissey’s “Autobiography”) have been proven to be part of the literary canon. It’s the reason I’m not reviewing “The Fault in Our Stars” or “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” (hands down my favourite book). While I don’t deny their impact and potential message, I’d just like to play it safe and consider books that have definitively entered the literary canon. Since I’m too lazy to work out which are and which aren’t, I’m just gonna give it up and go for my favourite series on Earth.

(Plus, you have to admit that Penguins just sound better with “Rhapsody in” added to the front over, say, Oxfords or Vintages or Signets.)

I would like to stress to all readers that THESE ARE NOT BOOK REVIEWS — for that I would suggest my friend Beverly’s excellent blog (which she has told me to say is rarely updated nowadays) or any other publication that deals with book reviews. These are merely my thoughts, loosely strung together, on how each and every classic we read, although written in days long gone by, can still ring true in our society today.

Anyway, hope you like these and see you on September 29! I’m going to begin the series with a flourish, so who better to start with than the King of Dramatic Entrances himself, and so: “The Phantom of the Opera” is there… in my website…

(The featured image above isn’t mine, I got it from the Penguin website. Hmph.)

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