With his “Versizer,” a literary shrink ray, Nash condenses works of Homer, Shakespeare, Proust, and six other classic authors into illustrated light verse.
Cleverness is all that could rescue this ill-conceived notion. Unfortunately, aside from occasional glimmers (“No wussie was Ulysses: / He journeyed ’cross the sea / And risked his life / to find his wife, / The sweet Penelope”), it’s in short supply. Resolutely removing nearly all reference to violence, as well as most of the casts and plots, Nash converts Hamlet to a “great Dane” who digs holes (for all except Ophelia, who gets a swimming pool), and Scheherazade to a mouse. He leaves Frankenstein and his monster in a snowball fight, and Ahab waving goodbye as he rides off atop a smiling Moby-Dick. And, for all their brevity, some of the entries make monotonous reading: “Don Quixote” is a string of limericks, for instance, and the eight stanzas of “Jane Eyre” are all modeled on “Three Blind Mice.” In other missteps, the rhyming turns notably uncertain in “A Thousand and One Nights,” the entire entry for Proust (which Nash admits he hasn’t finished reading) is a banal “I dipped a sweet cake in my tea / And a whole world came back to me,” and because Ulysses is portrayed as a child in the cartoon illustrations, it’s disturbing to see him making eyes and playing footsie with the adult-sized Penelope.
Children won’t get the jokes; adult readers won’t laugh at them. (closing notes) (Satire. 10-12, adult)