Penguin Classics Newsletter | December 2008 / January 2009

Holiday Gifts, Deluxe Classics

We all have to be creative with our gift-giving and wise with our wallets. Avoid the holiday stress with a timeless classic. Here's our guide to enrich the mind.

For the Gossip Girl-watching niece: The Complete Novels by Jane Austen

For Mom the matriarch: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields 

For the Xbox-crazed brother: The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck

For the co-worker who loved The Kite Runner: Shahnameh by Abolqasem Ferdowsi

For the intimidating father-in-law: The Iliad and The Odyssey Boxed Set by Homer 

For the hipster home from college: Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka

For the recently jilted best friend in need of a stiff drink: The Portable Dorothy Parker

For the food co-op neighbor: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair with a foreword by Eric Schlosser 

For the "SNL"-loving roommate: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

For the opera-loving uncle with no season tickets: The Savoy Operas: The Complete Gilbert and Sullivan


Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2008

We are pleased to announce that Choice, the leading publication for academic libraries, has selected the new Penguin Classics edition of Catiline's War, The Jugurthine War, Histories by Sallust, translated by A. J. Woodman, as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2008. Congratulations to A. J. Woodman, Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor of Classics at the University of Virginia


Economic Uncertainty and Corrupt Politicians in Dreiser's The Financier

Written in 1912, but especially relevant during our current financial crisis, Dreiser's stark portrayal of the ups and downs of American capitalism has riveted readers for almost one hundred years. Based loosely on the life of Charles T. Yerkes, The Financier follows Frank Algernon Cowperwood as he works his way up from humble beginnings, only to succumb to corruption, poverty, and imprisonment. Although Cowperwood eventually reclaims his piece of the American dream, his harrowing tale is a relevant and interesting read during these trying economic times.

  Little Red Riding Hood  

This winter, take siege with King Arthur's fellowship of knights!

John Steinbeck enjoyed Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur at the age of 9 and was inspired by the magic of it. Now, with Steinbeck's modernization packaged as a beautiful new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, and with a vibrant new foreword by renowned fantasy author Christopher Paolini, a new generation of future writers can discover this timeless work.

  Little Red Riding Hood  


With Baz Luhrmann's eagerly awaited new film, Australia, just opening, America will be transported Down Under in a way we haven't been since the 2000 Summer Olympics. And just in time, Penguin Classics is publishing two novels by Australia's only Nobel laureate in literature: Patrick White. So after you've traveled back in time to the mid-century Australian outback with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (just named People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive"), curl up with Patrick White's historical epic, Voss—featuring a new introduction by Schindler's List author and fellow Australian Thomas Keneally—and his tour de force of sexual and psychological menace, The Vivisector—introduction by fellow Nobel laureate and resident of Australia J. M. Coetzee. They sure cost less than a round-trip flight to Sydney!


Missing: Diedrich Knickerbocker

Two hundred years ago, in what may be the first example of guerilla marketing, Washington Irving invented the Dutch historian Diedrich Knickerbocker to stir up attention for his new work, A History of New York. Irving's humorous political satire took aim at many prominent figures in New York's history, including Thomas Jefferson, but the most targeted jab was at the New York Historical Society, to which the book was sarcastically dedicated. Despite Irving's tendency to stretch the truth, his mythical rendering of New York's birth and colonization remains the city's first-and finest-self-portrait.


Saint Augustine, the Wordsmith and Poet

Saint Augustine of Hippo has been winning the hearts and minds of philosophers, theologians, and laymen for almost two thousand years. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills' acclaimed translation of Augustine's Confessions, now available in our signature black-spine dress, will help Augustine continue to win the hearts and minds of readers of English. Wills' translation captures the essence of Augustine's poetics and puns, presenting his intentional stylizations with the utmost grace. And so whether readers are approaching this seminal autobiography for the first or the hundredth time, Augustine's words will be as immediate and alive as they were for the first Christians who were encouraged, enlightened, and moved by them.


2009 New Year's Resolution-Spend Less, Exercise, Read East of Eden

Last year we asked some Penguin colleagues to choose a classic they would read in 2008, as part of their new year's resolutions, which are always easier to keep if done with others. Alan Walker has spun this challenge into an impressive year of reading classically from A to Z; read his blog on our Penguin Classics site. 

Now, a new set of Penguin colleagues in sales, editorial, ad/promo, and production have chosen to ring in 2009 with some fantastic classics.

John Cassidy, Assistant Manager, Online Sales: The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell

Branda Maholtz, Associate Editor, Penguin/Plume: The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Schulz and A Room with a View by E. M. Forster 

Amy Sather, Penguin Catalog Coordinator, Viking & Penguin Ad/Promo: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Jennifer Tait, Production Editor, Penguin Managing Editorial: The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

  Little Red Riding Hood  

Campus Classic

For each Penguin Classics Newsletter we invite a professor to share an experience of teaching with a Penguin Classic. Eugene Ostashevsky of NYU here shares his thoughts on teaching Andrew George's translation of Gilgamesh

I start my Cultural Foundations sequence at NYU with Andrew George's translation of the Mesopotamian mini-epic Gilgamesh. I'm a huge, huge fan of both Gilgamesh and this rendition of it. The beautiful and poignant poem is about finitude: not just in the sense of mortality but also of imperfection; it asks, what do we make of our lives given that we have limits? The way it asks this question—the character of Gilgamesh, his desperate adventures, his failures—speaks directly to my eighteen-year-old students and their life experience. As for George's translation, it is far and away the best available. An Assyriologist, Prof. George gives us the text in its most up-to-date form but without cosmetics: letting lacunae remain lacunae; italicizing his guesses; presenting the Standard Version, the Old Babylonian and the Sumerian redactions separately. His readers encounter the story as a process, as stages in a millennium-long oral and written tradition. In other words, his version doesn't convert Gilgamesh into a unified text produced by our rules of composition. At the same time, Prof. George is a tremendously talented writer: the spare elegance of his language results in precise, memorable lines that move us as true poetry should. I recommend this book to just about anyone who listens, and would love to see Penguin publish more Mesopotamian literature by this translator-scholar.

In a Great Books course like mine, Gilgamesh forms a perfect preamble to Genesis, especially if the latter is presented in terms of the documentary hypothesis. It also sheds unexpected light on Homer. Finally, the descent to the Netherworld in the Sumerian tablets compares well with book XI of the Odyssey, book VI of the Aeneid and, of course, Dante's Inferno.

Eugene Ostashevsky
Master Teacher of the Humanities
Liberal Studies Program
New York University

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Reading the Classics from A to Z

Alan Walker, our Senior Director of Academic Marketing and Sales, gains momentum and more fans for his 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 (Q-S).



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