FAMILIAR POEMS, ANNOTATED by Isaac Asimov

FAMILIAR POEMS, ANNOTATED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Well, there can't be too many worlds left for the old pansophist to conquer, short of Great Recipes from Isaac Asimov--and maybe it's a tactical error to mention that. Asimov the literary annotator is something like Joe Namath the actor. Other critics may approach poems in terms of metrical subtleties and image-clusters, but Asimov eschews that kind of thing "for the very good reason that I don't know how to do it." What he does know how to do is put salt on the tail of stray facts: Keats' stout Cortez gazing from the peak in Darien (so named before "Panama City became the most important city of the region"), or the importance of the Hertzsprung-Russell main sequence of stellar development to Frost's "Fire and Ice." The Asimovian treatment, applied with vigor to a few dozen warhorses from "Barbara Frietchie" and "Paul Revere's Ride" to "Ozymandias" and Milton's sonnet on the Piedmont massacre, is unforgettable. It produces a lot of cheerfully useless glosses, some harmlessly entertaining facts (e.g., the number of stars and stripes on the original Fort McHenry flag of "The Star, Spangled Banner"), and at least one gloriously edifying set of notes--to the Major General's song from The Pirates of Penzance. Awful anthology, irrepressible Asimov--quite a combination. Let's see. . . "I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,/ In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous. . . .?
Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1976
ISBN: 0385116861
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1976




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