The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read

Stuart Kelly, Author . Random $24.95 (344p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6297-3

Homer's first work, alluded to by Aristotle, was supposedly a comic epic poem. Byron's memoirs were posthumously destroyed, and Ben Jonson didn't live to complete his final play, a pastoral tragicomedy. Flaubert, who suffered seizures that were probably epileptic, kept the text of a scientifically accurate novel about insanity locked up inside his head. At 15, Scottish freelance critic Kelly began compiling a List of Lost Books when he was shocked to learn that there are no extant plays of Agathon, a celebrated fifth century B.C. tragedian and friend of Euripides. "From Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, Homer to Hemingway, Dante to Ezra Pound, great writers had written works I could not possess," Kelly laments. "The entire history of literature was also the history of the loss of literature." At their best, Kelly's short essays whet the appetite for great works of literature, and serious readers will enjoy scanning these pages looking for curiosities and pondering lost volumes from the oeuvres of Austen, Chaucer and St. Paul. Inevitably, the thesis is more charming than the lengthy execution, and one suspects this would have been much more effective in condensed form as a whimsical article in Harper's or the Atlantic . Illus. (Apr. 25)

Reviewed on: 02/06/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 252 pages - 978-0-307-43200-1
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