These study guides represent only a small portion of my voluminous knowledge of world literature. Although they make an excellent resource, serious students of literature are encouraged to seek out the original works themselves and open them for their own interpretation.
DON QUIXOTE: There are many who consider this work to be the greatest work of literature ever written, and they are not far off. This story is both comedy and tragedy, with a man who pretends to be a knight riding around on his horse. He cuts a pathetic figure. The songs are awesome, especially the one about “To dream the impossible dream;” it is both true and rousing. Very applicable to our modern times, which is surprising considering that this was written many, many years ago.
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS: Try to imagine that you are a giant man. Wouldn’t your place in society be different than it is now? That is just the question posed by this amazing, fanciful book. Perhaps you would scoop up the little people in your big hands, and swallow them whole. Maybe you would just step on them. But then, the people attack you, and tie you to the ground, and subject you to their little laws. Now, imagine what it would be like to fall in love with a woman who was the size of an insect. Can you have physical relations with her? To my knowledge, this work does not address this important issue.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: To others, “William Shakespeare” is considered the greatest work of fiction in all of literature, and they are probably right, as it incorporates both the romantic (“What light in yonder window breaks? It is the east.”), the bawdy (“My tongue in your tail?”), and the horrific (“I am slain!”). To incorporate all of these things is easy, but to do it with such stylistic flourish is the main thing that everyone loves, including you, the reader, when you read this enchanting work.
THE RHYME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER: Death follows death in this terrifying true story of an old man on a boat, caught in the plague. His rhymes are the only things that prevent him going completely insane, as he passes the time trying not to get sick, and to fight off the birds that attack him. He is saved by the raft landing on the shore, and he goes to nearby resort town, where a nice vacation awaits him. His spirit renewed, he continues on his journey of rhyme, to the end of time.
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN: Finally, an American book! This book is the first to ever deal with a person who travels on a river on a raft, and it is a remarkable achievement. An interesting fact about this book for the modern audience is the fact that the character of “Huckleberry Finn” gave his name to the character of “Huckleberry Hound,” from the Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon show. This proves that even old literature is still alive and relevant to today’s audience. This book also unflinchingly deals head-on with the issue of slavery.
THE BRAGGADOCIO: This classic of Italian literature was banned for many years because of its earthiness, which is a fanciful word for “eroticism.” It is actually a lot of little stories strung together, and each one is more earthy than the last. It is perhaps the most famous for the names of the characters, which are actually funny puns describing the predominant personality traits of each character: “Vulva,” the older sister, “Hymen,” the younger sister, “Clitoria,” the middle sister who is the most difficult to locate through most of the book, and “Merkin,” who, in true Renaissance fashion, turns out to be a man in disguise. The sisters all have sex with Merkin.
THE GREAT GATSBY: This is the only book from the 20th century that I have read. Ironically or appropriately, depending on your point of view, it is actually a “great” book. In it, Gatsby seeks to make himself a better person by making lists and throwing parties, and this works well for him up until the part where I stopped reading. I was at the Laundromat on Cahuenga and Yucca in Hollywood, doing my laundry, when one of the other patrons asked me how much I loved the book. I told him I did like it a lot, and we had what was a pleasant conversation for about two minutes, then he asked me if I wanted to “catch the bus,” which is a euphemism. Don’t ask me to explain but if you’re ever in Hollywood and someone asks if you “catch the bus,” just keep walking. I was so disturbed, I could not continue reading this wonderful book.
THE ODYSSEY: The Odyssey is the last book that I will write about today, although it is not the last book I ever read. An “odyssey” is a synonym for a long journey, and this book is over 300 pages long, depending on the font used, which makes reading it a “long journey”! In it, Odysseus, the hero, must return home after fighting in the world war. He rides on his raft down the river until he meets all sorts of fanciful creatures. His wife catches the bus with many different men while waiting for her husband to return. When he does, there is a big party and much rejoicing, as Odysseus puts everyone else in their place. In the end, the reader loves it because it is great literature that is well written, and it is a satisfying story with many different elements.