Book a minute

Luke’s notice of Book-A-Minute gave me a laugh.

It’s too bad I’ve read most of these things already, and can easily argue with the highlights as presented. For example, the conclusion noted for Beowulf is just plain wrong: “Wiglaf, I’m dying. See that my funeral pyre fits my greatness.” When I read it, I was immediately reminded of the movie Easy Rider. You see, Beowulf goes for the big score and wins. But that’s not enough. He has to try to go after Grendel’s mom too. In doing so, he dooms his line, and must pass the torch to Wiglaf:

“You are the last      man of our tribe,
the race of Waegmundlings;      fate has swept
all my kinsman      to their final doom,
undaunted nobles.      I must follow them.”

Okay, so the setup before the final battle scene is an exploration of the relationship between greed and glory. So, I read the final death speech thing as closer to the final scene in Easy Rider where Peter Fonda says: “We blew it.” Going out in a blaze of glory is bullshit, the critique of that sort of thinking is subtle, but quite present in Beowulf. Before you decide that “I just don’t get it” regarding the humor of the site, rest assured I do— It’s just that I think it would be even funnier if the people who created the site had actually read the books a little more carefully. Most great works of literature can be fairly easily summarized; a person reads them for the force of language at work, not for the basic plots.

The summary of Rime of the Ancient Mariner suffers particularly in the middle observation: “I’m late, but I’ll listen.” There are two versions of this poem, an early and later one. In the early version, that isn’t what happens at all. The wedding guest threatens to go upside the old man’s head with his stick. Okay, so it’s light in textual history, I can forgive that. What I can’t forgive is missing the most interesting part of the poem. After everybody dies, the guy gambles with death and wins. He wins the distinct privilege of hassling grooms on their wedding day. Some prize, eh?

They also missed a great punch line for Paradise Lost. Instead of “alas, we have lost our paradise” I would have said “Hey! We’re naked!” The way that it happens in Book IX is pretty cool. They eat the fruit, fuck like crazy, and then wake up and realize that they’re naked. It sort of sounds like a bad one night stand, if you ask me. But then, nobody did.