But, then, just by looking at the book, you can guess the book will be unforgettably funny. Just thumbing through the pages, you'll notice how much Nagan has been able to stuff into the small volume: a 5-minute history to start us off, then Homer's "Iliad," Dante's "Divine Comedy," Milton's "Paradise Lost," Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," Dicken's "Christmas Carol," Melville's "Moby-Dick," Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment," Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray," Stoker's "Dracula," Kafka's "Metamorphosis," Joyce's "Ulysses," Orwell's "1984," Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye," Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea," and rounding the classics up with Kerouac's "On the Road."
Browsing Through the Classics
In the "Iliad," you'll finally come to understand that "it took Ulysses twenty years to sail home to Ithaca / because he was a proud man and would not ask for directions... / So it was pretty much a bummer / all the way around."
Skipping on ahead (or back to the beginning of time), the downfall of mankind and the traditional subjugation of woman to man is nicely condensed into: "Then Adam and Even turned back and looked, / Looked one long last teary-eyed time, / At the Paradise they'd lost for ever... 'It's all your stupid fault,' saieth Adam. / Replieth Eve: 'Shut up.'"
We'd Like to Think About What Might Have Been
The book is well-worth the read, whether you have read these classics or not. Of course, if you have read "Catcher in the Rye," "1984," and all of the other, you may understand some of the more humorous elements of the mis-told and hardly-told tales.
And we end with several lines from the Introduction: "if you don't familiarize yourself with the themes and ideas of the Great Books, you're going to lead a miserable life and die. You'll probably lead a miserable life and die anyway, but an acquaintance with Great Books can help you understand your misery and death in a broader context. That's got to count for something..."
Here's just one way to end (or begin) your reading of the classics.