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  Penguin Classics Newsletter | January/February 2010
     
  Vallejo  

New Year, New You, New Classic

Every January we ask our Penguin colleagues to name a classic they have never read and will promise to read as one of their New Year's resolutions, which are always easier to keep if done with others:

Matt Boyd, Publishing Coordinator: Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

Maya Battle, Viking Penguin Ad/Promo Assistant: L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful World of Oz

Sarah Fu, Online Content Coordinator: Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March

 
     
 

Doveglion

 

Twitter + Literature = Twitterature!

That's the title of a hilarious new Penguin book by two nineteen-year-old University of Chicago students, Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin, who pay homage to more than eighty of the world's greatest books by imagining their protagonists with Twitter accounts and iPhones, tweeting their way through their stories. Each classic in Twitterature is limited to twenty or fewer 140-character posts, and the selections range from Homer to Harry Potter, Virgil to Voltaire, Tolstoy to Twilight, and Dante to The Da Vinci Code.

Can you guess which books the following tweets come from? (Click on each tweet's Twitter handle—e.g., @AprilFools—for the answer.)

@AprilFools Oh and the Wyfe of Bathe. Talk about a woman who likes to be perced to the roote.

@MajorLeagueAesthole Sadly my beauty will one day cease. Perhaps I could preserve it by having the doc pull and staple the skin of my face? No. A silly thought.

@Eazy-B Uh oh. Grendel's mom showed up. She is really pissed. Wait. Monsters have feelings?

@HolyHaha I have to climb a mountain now? You got to be kidding me. Is this a joke? Who the hell came up with this story? VIIIRRRGGGILLLLLLLLLLL!

@OedipusGothplex WTF IS POLONIUS DOING BEHIND THE CURTAIN???

@WhathappensinThebes PARTY IN THEBES!!!!! Nobody cares I killed that old dude, plus this woman is ALL OVER ME! Total MILF.

@bugged-out I seem to have transformed into a large bug. Has this ever happened to any of you? No solution on Web MD.

 
   
  Little Red Riding Hood

 

"It's the rainbow hologram that gives this credit card a marketing intrigue."

Recognize this line? It's from Don DeLillo's White Noise, which turns twenty-five this month, just in time for the release of DeLillo's latest novel, Point Omega. To mark the occasion, we've just published a 25th-anniversary Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, with an introduction by National Book Award winner Richard Powers and a cover design by comic book artist Michael Cho. In his introduction, Powers calls White Noise "one of the great, unlikely family romances of the last hundred years" and asks: "How has the portrait aged, over a quarter of a century?" His answer? "If you thought the world was awash in noise then, half a decade before the first web browser, just put your ear to today's Twitter."

Click here to see our other titles by Don DeLillo.

 
   
  democracy  

"The most significant Penguin Classic ever published"

That's what Time magazine recently called our first modern Chinese classic, The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China, which collects the complete fiction of Lu Xun, the father of modern Chinese literature. Lu Xun was a writer of satirical brilliance. He studied to be a doctor before realizing it wasn't the bodies of his countrymen that needed curing, but their minds and spirits, and he became the self-appointed literary physician of China's spiritual ills. Yet for all Lu Xun's criticism of China, Chairman Mao commandeered him in service of the Cultural Revolution, calling him "the saint of modern China," and giving rise to Lu Xun museums, plays, TV adaptations, wine brands, a Lu Xun Day on the national calendar, and a theme park offering tourists the "Lu Xun experience." His stories, newly—and brilliantly—translated by Julia Lovell, are published here in the only edition available of his complete fiction, and with an afterword by Yiyun Li, the award-winning author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants, who also studied to be a doctor before turning to writing fiction.

Click here to see some of our other titles from China.

 
   
  democracy

 

Compassionate Capitalism: The 250th Anniversary of The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Poor Adam Smith. With the world economy in trouble, he's been taking a drubbing. But before he made the case for free-market capitalism in The Wealth of Nations, he published The Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he laid the groundwork for socially conscious capitalism by engaging ideas of benevolence, justice, and sympathy. It's never been published in the Penguin Classics until now, in a 250th-anniversary edition, edited by Ryan Patrick Hanley of Marquette University, the author of the recent book Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue, and with an introduction by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, known as the "conscience of his profession" for his emphasis on how economics affects the well-being of communities. President Obama has cited The Theory of Moral Sentiments as key to his thinking—the theme of his inaugural address, after all, was social responsibility—as has Bill Gates. Sounds like it should be required reading for all current and aspiring Fortune 500 CEOs.

 
   
   

What does Penelope Cruz have in common with Penguin Classics?

Well, Penguin Classics has just published Celestina, the racy and irreverent Spanish tragicomedy that's considered the first European novel, and in 1996, at age twenty-one, Penelope Cruz starred in an award-winning Spanish movie adaptation of Fernando de Rojas's pathbreaking novel. Cruz played the lovely and nubile Melibea, heartsick for her Romeo, the dashing young Calisto, who enlists the salty old prostitute-turned-brothel-madam Celestina to help unite him with his beloved. But under the guise of helping Calisto, Celestina exploits him, coming up with potions and perfumes and talismans and spells that she promises will make Melibea fall in love with him, while bilking him at every turn. Peter Bush's thrilling, revelatory new translation gives Celestina a racing pulse, and in the introduction, none other than Juan Goytisolo, Spain's greatest living writer, calls it "a vibrantly alive work of art" and says "it is no exaggeration to equate the artistic originality and conquests of Rojas with the achievements of Cervantes, Velázquez, or Goya."

 
   
 
 

Celebrity Lovefest for Arthur Miller

In time for the fifth anniversary of Arthur Miller's death (February 11) and the new Broadway revival of Miller's A View from the Bridge, starring Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber, we're thrilled to be publishing a Penguin Classics edition of Miller's play, featuring a moving foreword by Academy Award-winning actor and director Philip Seymour Hoffman, who writes that "Miller awakened in me the taste for all that must be—the empathy and love for the least of us, out of which bursts a gratitude for the poetry of his characters and the greatness of their creator."

Click here to see our other titles by Arthur Miller.

 
   
   

Austen on Masterpiece Theater!

This winter, PBS will be airing film adaptations of three of Jane Austen's beloved novels. Check your local listings, and pick up The Complete Novels to indulge in after enjoying each movie.

Sunday, January 24: Emma, part 1
Sunday, January 31: Emma, part 2
Sunday, February 7: Emma, part 3
Sunday, February 14: Northanger Abbey
Sunday, February 21: Persuasion

 
   
   

Janeites, meet the Jane Eyreheads

Those with Brontëmania will enjoy The Brontë Sisters, our new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of three of the best-known novels of each of the Brontë sisters in one volume: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, and Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë. This beautiful gift edition with French flaps can be paired with Jane Austen's The Complete Novels or with the new novel about the Brontë sisters and their writing, Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler (Penguin).

 
   
   

Keith Haring's Classics Debut

One of the best things to come out of the '80s is the exuberant, socially-conscious artwork of Keith Haring. To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Haring's death, his Journals make their debut as a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. The book features ninety new and updated black and white images of his artwork, including never-before-published Polaroids. Shepard Fairey, the artist best known for the iconic Barack Obama "Hope" portrait, contributes a new foreword.

 
   
   

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s, African American Classics

The latest book in the series of African American classics curated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is Iola Leroy by Frances E. W. Harper, featuring a new introduction by Hollis Robbins. An esteemed writer and activist, Harper wrote this novel of the African American experience during the Civil War and its aftermath at the age of sixty-seven. The series, to which Gates contributes an essay on what is an African American classic, includes God's Trombones by James Weldon Johnson, featuring a foreword by Maya Angelou, and The Portable Charles W. Chesnutt, edited by William L. Andrews.

 
   
   

On Architecture

Rome wasn't built in a day, but if you pick up On Architecture you'll find yourself needing just a day to read about its construction. Straight from the mouth of Rome's most distinguished urban designers, this book is more than a manual; it's an eyewitness account of one of architecture's greatest success stories. Chock full of illustrations and diagrams, and replete with Vitruvius' philosophies on design, proportion, materials, and even plumbing, On Architecture presents the core principles of structural and city design that are still influential today.

 
   
   

The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse

Spanning from the earliest times to the present, The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse presents a complete trajectory of Japanese culture over time. With accessible translations by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite, the volume transports the reader to the stunning landscapes of Japan. Whether for the advanced scholar or someone new to poetry, this authoritative volume of haikus and tankas captures the subtle beauty of the original poems.

Click here to see some of our other titles from Japan.

 
   
   

Swift's Proposal

A wonderful compilation of Jonathan Swift's assorted short works, A Modest Proposal and Other Writings includes his famous response to Irish poverty: to make the children of the poor into "sound and useful Members of the Commonwealth"—by serving them as food to the Irish citizens, of course! Swift unleashes his satirical tongue on other targets as well, such as the British rule in Ireland, the aristocrats' use of servants, and the follies of stargazing. Hilarious and informative, this collection of Swift's work also includes a biography of the master satirist, as well as a chronology, suggestions for further reading, a glossary, and notes.

 
   
   

A Year-End Review—A 2009 Classics Pick

Jennifer Tait, Production Editor: Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars

When I was asked to read a classic as a New Year's resolution, I knew it was one I could actually keep. And when I saw a Bram Stoker novel I hadn't read before as one of the options, I was thrilled. (I'm a longtime fan of Dracula.)

The Jewel of Seven Stars is set at a time in which there was a craze about all things Egyptian, especially mummies. Mummy parts were used to cure ailments (though I'm not sure offhand what exactly could be cured by mummy bits), and mummy unwrapping parties were huge social events.

It's against this background that our hero, Malcolm Ross, receives a message from a Miss Margaret Trelawney stating that her father has just fallen ill. He, being rather entranced by Margaret after a recent meeting, rushes over and takes charge of the situation. The police and a doctor are sent for, but no explanation can be found. Trelawney's lawyer is also sent for, and he specifies that none of the Egyptian artifacts in the room are to be moved. Odd that. So it's pretty obvious they've got something to do with Trelawney's condition. Naturally the rest of the novel is concerned not only with discovering Trewlaney's condition but also with what led to it and the ramifications of what happened on his trips to Egypt. (Really, that's not a spoiler.)

The Penguin Classics edition is the version that was published in Stoker's lifetime. There's a chapter in which Ross ponders what it would mean to Christianity if the experiment were to succeed. The appendix includes how this chapter was changed in the version released after Stoker's death. The ending is also quite different. After reading the "new and improved" versions, which is generally what's been available, I can see why this novel never got much attention. Stoker's original is much stronger, more haunting.

 

 

 

            

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Reading the Classics from A to Z
Marathon 2

 
 

With one complete cycle under his belt, Alan Walker, our Senior Director of Academic Marketing and Sales, embarks on yet another Penguin Classics reading marathon of one book by an author per letter of the alphabet. Check out the Penguin Classics website for Alan's latest blog entries (E to G), as well as his entire first marathon.

 
   
   

Classics Calendar

Spend your February Mondays at Barnes & Noble with Penguin Classics for the "Writers on Writing" series, 150 East 86th Street, New York City

Feb 8: "Why Russian Literature Matters": Keith Gessen, Olga Grushin, Anya Ulinich, Natasha Randall, Ronald Meyer

Feb 15: "The Dorothy Parker Post-Valentine's Day Recovery Night": Marion Meade, biographer and editor; Kevin Fitzpatrick, president of The Dorothy Parker Society; and Miss M, a burlesque actress

Feb 22: "What is an African American Classic?": Henry Louis Gates, Jr., with Dayo Olopade from The Root.com and Farah Jasmine Griffin from Columbia University

 
   
 

Listen and enjoy Penguin Classics On Air, a new online audio program from The Publisher's Office at Penguin.com. Written, produced, and hosted by the Penguin Classics staff, Penguin Classics On Air presents episodes on the first Mexican American novelist, vampires, philosophy with jokes, the Swedish Gone with the Wind, Tolstoy's last days, and many more. Enjoy interviews with specialists and scholars, excerpts from Alan Walker's Reading the Classics from A to Z blog, and First Pages with Editor in Chief Stephen Morrison.

This season launches with "Becoming Brontë," an interview with Sheila Kohler on the writing of her novel Becoming Jane Eyre, and a conversation with scholar Juliette Wells about teaching the works of the Brontë sisters.

The Ten Essential Penguin Classics
Penguin Classics has compiled a list of the top ten essential Penguin Classics every person should read.

Watch our short video to learn more about each of these ten books.

 

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