Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 97 (5/11) -- 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry by Henrik Lange

90 Classic Books is far easier to describe than it is to review -- it's almost entirely premise, and so the only real question is how well it lives up to that premise. Lange is a Swedish cartoonist, and this book is an adaptation and translation of his 2007 book 80 Romaner For Dig Som Har Brattom -- which, if I can trust my nonexistent Swedish, means that he added ten new classic books for the English-language edition, but otherwise it's the same thing. This edition is published by Nicotext, a house that publishes both in Europe (in English and Swedish) and the USA, and seems to focus mostly on the kind of quick books that have one foot in the reference category and one foot in humor (like Bla Bla Sex and Truth or Bull).

And 90 Classic Books is in that same region -- it has 90 single-page (all four panels, with the first taken up by the title and an iconic representation of the book) generally flippant comics descriptions of the plots and themes of famous books. It ranges from American Psycho to The Alchemist, with stops at Smila's Sense of Snow, Romeo and Juliet, Naked Lunch, The Golden Notebook, Watchmen, The Da Vinci Code, and 82 others along the way. It can be vaguely educational, in a very attenuated way, but it's most entertaining as commentary on the books that the reader is familiar with. There's not a whole lot of space, so Lange hits the obvious high points -- the things, actually, that we all probably already know about these works, if we've heard about them at all.

Lange's art -- or the reproduction here -- has smudgy tones throughout, and the panels are all the same size, and usually at about the same distance from the image, so the art doesn't really wow. On the positive side, Lange is a fine caricaturist who engages in a number of great grotesques in the course of 90 Classic Books, and his drawing is always admirably energetic. I don't think there's anyone who would actually need this book, but it's a pleasant way for a bibliophile to spend an hour or so.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Alela Diane - The Rifle
via FoxyTunes

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