One of my best friends/mentors is an intelligent, kindhearted family man who hates public speaking. He will be the first to tell you that as soon as he starts talking publicly, he blacks out. The end result is something between Michael Scott explaining his leadership strategy and Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney. This book, using that voice, summarizes fifteen pieces of classic Western literature. The end result is a clever, enjoyable stroll through the history of great books.
In chronological order, Nagan truncates each of the classic stories to approximately a dozen pages. Each section includes a somewhat factual summary of both the author and context in which the book was written. Nagan also generally writes in the style of the book he is covering. This choice works best in books with very strong voices, like Moby-Dick:
The boat turned slowly, too slowly, as the whale surged toward her, gathering momentum, plowing through the water so furiously as to send up a foamy spray as he swam, until at last he struck her amidships, and the boat shuddered, and the masts fell, and those aboard tripped and fell into one another, and in the galley the cook dropped the birthday cake he’d been preparing and fell face first into it, and the Pequod began to sink.
The book probably works best if you have read the books satirized because you’ll understand the little jokes (“Hey eyes shining, her voice trembling, her calves twitching, she read from the fourth gospel,” – Dostoyevksy”) peppered throughout the section. However, I’ve never read Dracula and that section might’ve been my favorite send-up in the book. If you think that these excerpts are funny, read the book. If you don’t think it’s funny, this book won’t be for you.