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Classics Revisited

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Poet, translator, essayist, and voracious reader––Kenneth Rexroth was an omnivore in the fields of literature. The brief, radiant essays of Classics Revisited discuss sixty key books that are, for Rexroth, “basic documents in the history of the imagination.” Ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Huckleberry Finn, these pieces (each about five pages long) originally appeare Poet, translator, essayist, and voracious reader––Kenneth Rexroth was an omnivore in the fields of literature. The brief, radiant essays of Classics Revisited discuss sixty key books that are, for Rexroth, “basic documents in the history of the imagination.” Ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Huckleberry Finn, these pieces (each about five pages long) originally appeared in the Saturday Review. Distinguished by Rexroth’s plain, wide-awake style, Classics Revisited presents complex ideas in simple language, energized by the author’s air of talking eye-to-eye with his reader. Elastic, at home in several languages, Rexroth is not bound by East or West; he leaps nimbly from Homer to The Mahabharata, from Lady Murasaki to Stendhal. It is only when we pause for breath that we notice his special affinities: for Casanova, lzaak Walton, Macbeth, Icelandic sagas, classical Japanese poetry. He has read everything. In Sterne, he sees traces of the Buddha; in Fielding, hints of Confucius. “Life may not be optimistic,” Rexroth maintains in his introduction, “but it certainly is comic, and the greatest literature presents man wearing the two conventional masks; the grinning and the weeping faces that decorate theatre prosceniums. What is the face behind the mask? Just a human face––yours or mine. That is the irony of it all––the irony that distinguishes great literature––it is all so ordinary.”


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Poet, translator, essayist, and voracious reader––Kenneth Rexroth was an omnivore in the fields of literature. The brief, radiant essays of Classics Revisited discuss sixty key books that are, for Rexroth, “basic documents in the history of the imagination.” Ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Huckleberry Finn, these pieces (each about five pages long) originally appeare Poet, translator, essayist, and voracious reader––Kenneth Rexroth was an omnivore in the fields of literature. The brief, radiant essays of Classics Revisited discuss sixty key books that are, for Rexroth, “basic documents in the history of the imagination.” Ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Huckleberry Finn, these pieces (each about five pages long) originally appeared in the Saturday Review. Distinguished by Rexroth’s plain, wide-awake style, Classics Revisited presents complex ideas in simple language, energized by the author’s air of talking eye-to-eye with his reader. Elastic, at home in several languages, Rexroth is not bound by East or West; he leaps nimbly from Homer to The Mahabharata, from Lady Murasaki to Stendhal. It is only when we pause for breath that we notice his special affinities: for Casanova, lzaak Walton, Macbeth, Icelandic sagas, classical Japanese poetry. He has read everything. In Sterne, he sees traces of the Buddha; in Fielding, hints of Confucius. “Life may not be optimistic,” Rexroth maintains in his introduction, “but it certainly is comic, and the greatest literature presents man wearing the two conventional masks; the grinning and the weeping faces that decorate theatre prosceniums. What is the face behind the mask? Just a human face––yours or mine. That is the irony of it all––the irony that distinguishes great literature––it is all so ordinary.”

30 review for Classics Revisited

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Kowalski

    Ok. I feel this book is so important that I don’t know where to begin. I have always admired Rexroth’s poetry and I bought this many years ago, thinking that I respected his taste so much that I would appreciate his essays. However it is beyond that. So much so that I have made a list of the 60 or so texts, studied in this book, with a view to reading them all. He makes them that important. And, interestingly, behind the syncopated beats of these distinctly different essays, the hint of a life l Ok. I feel this book is so important that I don’t know where to begin. I have always admired Rexroth’s poetry and I bought this many years ago, thinking that I respected his taste so much that I would appreciate his essays. However it is beyond that. So much so that I have made a list of the 60 or so texts, studied in this book, with a view to reading them all. He makes them that important. And, interestingly, behind the syncopated beats of these distinctly different essays, the hint of a life lived wild and wisely is revealed. I genuinely feel that this work is a must, as a guideline, for anyone who wants to have had a life well read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Perfect for workplace longueurs. Untaxing brevity is important, given the madhouse florescent lights under which we Gogol-esque clerkish types are expected to cerebrate.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jay Callahan

    More wisdom, intelligence, insight and clear writing than you'll find in most whole universities or literary journals. More wisdom, intelligence, insight and clear writing than you'll find in most whole universities or literary journals.

  4. 5 out of 5

    João Cruz

    Pensei aprender mais com este "Revisitar os Clássicos". Só consegui raspar a superfície da maioria das exegeses aqui apresentadas o que me deixou um pouco desalentado. Pensei aprender mais com este "Revisitar os Clássicos". Só consegui raspar a superfície da maioria das exegeses aqui apresentadas o que me deixou um pouco desalentado.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Kenneth Rexroth was part of the "Beat" scene, knowing Ginsburg, Ferlinghetti, etc. However, his main role was as a critic. Fluent in several languages, he often did translations. In this slim book, CLASSICS REVISITED, he offers incredible insights into the world classic from both the Western and Eastern canons. Each essay is only a few pages long, but each is packed with allusions that had me in awe. I used it in my World Lit AP course, and it humbled even the brightest students--who complained Kenneth Rexroth was part of the "Beat" scene, knowing Ginsburg, Ferlinghetti, etc. However, his main role was as a critic. Fluent in several languages, he often did translations. In this slim book, CLASSICS REVISITED, he offers incredible insights into the world classic from both the Western and Eastern canons. Each essay is only a few pages long, but each is packed with allusions that had me in awe. I used it in my World Lit AP course, and it humbled even the brightest students--who complained bitterly about how hard it was, and then often took it to collge with them! It's been an honor to spend time with such a mind.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    I'm not anywhere finished with this...I wish I owned a copy. I've already renewed from Central--twice, I think. I'm not anywhere finished with this...I wish I owned a copy. I've already renewed from Central--twice, I think.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alan Gerstle

    If you ever wonder why the F___ literature is important, read this and its sequel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    George

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mais

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gary Allen

  11. 5 out of 5

    Arturo Serrano

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anderson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Greer

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Burton-Rose

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christa Mcintyre

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jamil

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael Berdan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nic Don

  21. 4 out of 5

    Raven

  22. 4 out of 5

    Guilherme Amorim

  23. 4 out of 5

    cara

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sev

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sally Salino

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joelle Workman

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