Penguin Classics Newsletter | February / March 2009

"Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

Many leaders have drawn guidance from Lincoln's remarkable speeches, one of the greatest collections of the American oratorical tradition. Celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth with The Portable Abraham Lincoln, edited by Andrew Delbanco. An expanded edition of Lincoln's best speeches and writings, it features a new introduction, a chronology of Lincoln's life, and four new selections of his writings.


"If I were a rich man, ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum"

Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof fame comes to Penguin Classics this month, along with the lovable hellion Motl, the Jewish Tom Sawyer, in our first-ever Yiddish classic: Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor's Son. Sholem Aleichem's most beloved characters are given new life in Aliza Shevrin's thrilling translations, published for the 150th anniversary of Sholem Aleichem's birth and introduced by the distinguished scholar Dan Miron. As a further birthday tribute, Viking is publishing the first complete translation of Sholem Aleichem's epic novel of the Yiddish theater, Wandering Stars, featuring a foreword by Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize— and Tony Award—winning author of Angels in America, who calls the book "a great novel about theater, an invaluable account of the Jewish theater of the diaspora, and a brilliant exploration of liberation's outrageous, tumultuous motion through human society and the human soul."


Pilgrim's Progress

The path to Heaven is arduous, but with Penguin Classics' new edition of The Pilgrim's Progress, accompanying Christian on his journey to the Celestial City is simply invigorating. Complete with John Bunyan's marginal notes and illustrations from some of the earliest editions of the book, this new edition revives the classic allegory in a way that makes it attractive to readers of all faiths and traditions. In his introduction, Roger Pooley contextualizes the tale by delving into Bunyan's life and theology. Additionally, he pulls together a helpful chronology and notes that explain the history of the text and the complex religious milieu in which Bunyan was writing. The result is a work that communicates the story's fame and influence to readers who cannot even fathom a twelve-year imprisonment for preaching the Bible.


Valentine Picks: A Classic for Every Whim

As another Valentine's Day rolls around, Penguin Classics reminds readers that there is a love story for every taste.

For the traditional romantic, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice can make even the most stoic heart melt.

Those who prefer a more tortured, brooding, Romeo and Juliet -esque romance should pick up The Letters of Abelard and Heloise—their love ends in tragedy (and castration). And if that isn't agonizing enough, there is always Emily Brontë's classic tale of bitterness and vengeance on the moors: Wuthering Heights.

If love is nothing more than a game to you, then cozy up to the epistolary tale that inspired Cruel Intentions. Laclos's Dangerous Liaisons is a captivating read from cover to cover, with more lust and manipulation than a racy episode of Gossip Girl.

And for those who prefer their romance served with a side of scandal, these French titles will both titillate and satisfy: Gustave Flaubert's infamous Madame Bovary and Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin. These titles were so shocking in their time that the authors faced public outrage and disgrace after publication.


The Tain

Meet the legendary teen warrior Cú Chulainn, who, transformed by the Torque with superhuman strength, battles the invading army of Connacht over the fabled Brown Bull of Cooley. No, it's not an Xbox game, but The Tain, the oldest Irish epic of heroism, magic, bloodshed, and betrayal. After reading Ciaran Carson's spectacular new translation, W. S. Merwin describes The Tain as "one of the wildest and most powerful of the heroic sagas . . . violent, loud, a kaleidoscope of shifting perspectives and hues."


Our First Modern Japanese Classic

Jay Rubin's stunning new translation of the work of the Japanese master Ryunosuke Akutagawa—whose stories are the basis for one of the greatest films in the history of moviemaking, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon—comes out this month in a striking black-spine Classics edition, introduced by the one-and-only Haruki Murakami. Half of the stories in Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories appear here in English for the first time. Jay Rubin's selection of stories has been recognized as such a landmark in the appreciation and understanding of Akutagawa that an edition has even been published in Japanese!

  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. Derrick R. Spires shares his thoughts on teaching Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony

I love using Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony as the first novel when teaching courses focused on literary form and the past. From the start, Silko forces us (my students and me) to think more reflexively about what we expect from something called a novel. It's a bit like watching my students play Tetris, but with a twist. They're trying to put all of the pieces together from the start, but the pieces seem to fall at random; they twist and curve rather than fall in line. The unraveling of Tayo's narrative—his war experience, his young life, his return home, his return to psychic wholeness—becomes a group project. It inspires "Aha! I got it!" moments, followed by "hmmm." I usually ask students to seriously close read the opening poetry. Consider how one narrative and narrative form informs the other. Some seemingly basic structural questions begin to open a new way of reading: What happens when we let the narrative structure guide us rather than trying to impose our own order on it? How does Silko's way of guiding us into Tayo's world offer new ways of experiencing and reading our own? What are the stories that need telling in our own lives? Suddenly, the two-dimensional Tetris looks more like the spider's web, one we are not meant to unravel. Rather, Ceremony invites us to re-vision, to see where and how we fit, what stories inform our lives and why. So much is going on, that writing about the novel becomes more about exploring ideas than fulfilling an assignment—most gratifying.

Derrick R. Spires
American Studies Fellow
Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities
Vanderbilt University
Course: Literature: Forms and Techniques

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Reading the Classics from A to Z: A Literary Makeover

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 (T-W).



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