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GREAT BOOKS Paperback – September 25, 1997
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Denby regales us with his enviable experience of being re-introduced to great literature as an adult, engaging the classics as an enthusiastic and willing observer instead of a bored and cynical youth obsessed with carving their own niche. Unlike his classmates, Denby has the luxury known mostly only to the mature, to actually enjoy the trip rather than using the readings as a springboard to show his own cleverness and garner good grades. His honest enthusiasm shows through as we experience a taste of great literature through his eyes.
While this book is somewhat a summary of some of the classics, it would fail on that basis alone, paling in comparison to the Cliff and Monarch notes, just as those notes pale in comparison to the original works. This is not a book to read to understand the classics of Western literature, nor to help with any scholarly pursuit of knowledge. This is a very pleasant and enjoyable excursion through great literature along with someone in the unique position to be an experienced critic, a skilled writer, and an enthusiastic student viewing the subjects as if for the first time.Read more ›
Denby gives us essentially a travelogue of his journey through the "great works of Western literature" at Columbia University, where he has returned to revisit the course material. Unsurprisingly, Denby gives brief descriptions of the works on the syllabus, paying particular attention to particular passages that struck his fancy. More surprisingly, Denby also brings us into the classroom, discussing the professors in detail while relating the other students' efforts to master the material.
These exchanges are fascinating because Denby refuses to patronize the students, who seem to be a genuinely scholarly bunch, capable of digesting and reacting personally to the material. Sure, there are some low points, such as when the students run up against Dante and the eternal damnation of the "Inferno," which the students seem to reject as "so non-20th century"(!). On other works, the students are as engaged and insightful as Denby, even though they lack his life experience. Denby avoids looking down on the students for their inexperience, and he tries to see the works from their perspective as well as his own.
Perhaps unexpectedly for Denby, his perspective isn't all that different from the students' in one critical regard -- he is reminded how difficult it is to keep up with the reading. In some of the more humorous passages in a surprisingly funny book (not slapstick, mind you), Denby laments falling behind in his reading, or struggling to find a quiet place in Manhattan to read, or finding moments of solitude during the daily pell-mell of parenting.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I tried my best to read this book, but became bogged down in all the talk regarding, context, meaning, etc. and could not finish it. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Edmond M Koury
If one is a Columbia College grad or deep into the classics, you gotta love Denby going back to Contemporary Civilization and Literature Humanities classes 30 years post graduation... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Neill Brownstein
I really enjoyed this book, not only as a kind of summary of great books of the western canon, but also because of the perspective offered by Denby as a returning and intelligent... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Sam Lusk
An odd book. It's sort of a diary, sort of a lit primer, and sort of a chronicle of a certain time, in this case the 1990s, when there was much hub-bub in universities about... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Christopher
I have been read the book age of university. The book is great and gorgeous. And some of part is changed. It is interesting to me.Published 8 months ago by Sajasupe
I never received this book. I am not sure what happened. The book content is great and worthy of the read. I checked it out from the library and wanted to take my time. Read morePublished on March 31, 2014 by My2sence
amazing resource...i found each story better than last and full of amazing reference for this novice historian, best find ever.Published on March 18, 2014 by Blondie
This is most certainly a book for readers and those who love to talk about their cherished books. The writing is excellent and engaging. Read morePublished on August 16, 2013 by John Edwards