Even if you are not familiar with the parodied material, you are sure to enjoy Nagan's biting style and grotesque...

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THE FIVE-MINUTE ILIAD AND OTHER INSTANT CLASSICS

GREAT BOOKS FOR THE SHORT ATTENTION SPAN

Don't be fooled by the title: this is not one of those compilations of quick summaries that help students save face on exams. In fact, Nagan's witty travesties will do a disservice to anyone who wishes to get the gist of The Divine Comedy or Crime and Punishment without plowing through hundreds of pages on his own.

Shielding himself behind a mock epigraph from Tolstoy (who supposedly declared that "I will never write such wordy trash again," after completing War and Peace), Nagan (who writes for A Prairie Home Companion) embarks on the noble mission of shortening great novels to five-minute parodies. The burlesque tone is set from the very beginning, with Nagan's admonition that the classics be read for two reasons: to understand personal misery and death in a broader context, and to impress people in conversation. His selections include 15 works by ancient and modern authors, ranging from Homer to Kerouac, representing genres from epic to science fiction. Nagan maintains original versified forms when possible, skipping over any "troublesome parts" and making up the rest. Before each parody we are offered a zany autobiographical sketch of the author, where fact and fiction are mixed into a tongue-in-cheek cocktail. Dostoevsky is introduced as a "devoutly pious Russian Orthodox Catholic" who was always loyal to the czar and was therefore arrested, executed, and exiled to Siberia. Punning adds to the playfulness of the book, as when Nagan explains that the emancipation of Russian serfs was a failure because there were too few surfers in the country in 1861.

Even if you are not familiar with the parodied material, you are sure to enjoy Nagan's biting style and grotesque interpretations of the most sacred texts of Western culture.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-86767-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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