Book Jones Books

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Those Classic Collections: Part 1 - NYRB Classics

NYRB Classics 10th Anniversary Complete Collection (New York Review Books)Since I was a young tyke, I've always enjoyed a variety of publisher's classic book collections or series;  like Modern Library or The Library of America. I have a small collection of each attracting dust on my book shelf at this writing. In recent years, three such collections have piqued my interest.

The New York Review of Books Classics collection is a wonderful way to discover those lost classics, or offbeat literary titles that have been out of print for some time. One of my favorites is Richard Hughes' tale of children and pirates, A High Wind In Jamaica, which landed at number 71 on the Modern Library's list of Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. Here is an excerpt of my Amazon.com review
Richard Hughes's 1929 odyssey, A High Wind In Jamaica... forces the reader to revisit that moment when children lose their innocence to the world; that diaphanous transference from childhood to adulthood that can be so heart-breakingly revelatory. In this tale, it rides in on a torrent of bad weather seemingly induced by an earthquake... From the primitive wilderness of the Caribbean Islands to the hyper-civilized atmosphere of an English Central Criminal Courtroom, the novel follows a logical if allegorical arc; but does Hughes mean to describe this arc as progressive or regressive? A High Wind in Jamaica is one of those books that lulls the reader into a long and languorous torpor. Then it shakes you, slaps you and says "snap out of it". Read full review
Another title I enjoyed is called The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya, the niece of Leo Tolstoy. It's a dystopian study of her motherland. I reviewed it in 2009:
The fearsome Slynx of the title lies outside the boundaries of Fyodor-Kuzmichsk (formerly Moscow). It is the fear of moving on, expanding, change, and discovering just what does exist at the nether regions of the "flat pancake of the earth"; the serpentine Slynx is the fear of knowledge and it devours all that dare trespass on its turf. Read full review
NYRB classics tout a bevy of titles from the French master of Noir, Georges Simenon. One of which, Red Lights I commented on back in 2007:
I was pleasantly surprised by this noir gem from NYRB classics. This was my first exposure to Simenon, the famously prolific creator of Inspector Maigret.
Red Lights is the story of a regular couple from New York, Steve and Nancy Hogan, who become fatefully entwined with Sid, a hardened criminal; a hard case. As they prepare to embark on a trip to retrieve their children from a Maine summer camp, Steve finds himself going where he calls "into the tunnel", an imaginary zone where he can shake out all his sillies (which means: consume a lot of rye whiskey). Unfortunately in the process, he loses Nancy, then proceeds to delve only deeper into the dark side of life. Read full review
There are hundreds of titles in this collection, most of them top notch selections. What I like so much about these books are both their international flavor, and that uncommon feeling you get after reading one, like you've discovered something brand new or just realized you've overlooked strawberry ice cream your whole life. The collection has its own blog called A Different Stripe. Many titles have just been made available for the Kindle.
Here is a list of other titles from the NYRB Classics collection:


Watch for parts 2 and 3 of Those Classics Collections on Book Jones


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