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June 14, 2020

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1: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WILL NOT BE TELLING YOU

May 24, 2014

#1: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WILL NOT BE TELLING YOU. “Classic” is 

a terrible epithet to slap on a book: it ends up on somebody’s Lifetime Reading Program 

or one of those other canons people are always firing off. My own notes are going to be 

entirely random and subjective, but if you are looking for a guide to the best, a checklist 

of the biggies, I recommend Classics Revisited, by Kenneth Rexroth. Rexroth was 

a California poet—he organized the famous Six Gallery reading which launched the Beat 

movement—as well as a translator, essayist and reader of world-ranging voracity. This 

book gives essays on sixty classics ranging from Gilgamesh to Chekov, with suggestions 

for the best translations of foreign-language works. Unlike most such efforts, it is 

lively, beautifully written and genuinely exciting. There is a second volume, More

Classics Revisited, and both are in print from New Directions. 

 

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