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Thread: Penguin Classics.

  1. #1
    Registered User Zee.'s Avatar
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    Penguin Classics.

    So i saw these the other day

    http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/u...eas/index.html

    how fantastic are they?

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    Quote Originally Posted by limajean View Post
    So i saw these the other day

    http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/u...eas/index.html

    how fantastic are they?
    Not very.

    There is far too much abridgement going on. I've just finished reading Montaigne's Complete Essays (in Penguin, Screech translation). There are 107, all worth reading. I've marked 51 as being amongst the best things I've ever read, all of them full of "great ideas", and they therefore should be in any "reasonable" edition of selected essays. In "great ideas" you get 13 essays, all on my "re-read" list, but certainly not the best 13 ("An Apology for Raymond" Seybond should be in any "top 13" but is almost twice as long as the whole "great ideas" book!)

    Why on Earth would you buy a Penguin hack of Shakespeare "On Power" when you can buy the wonderful RSC Complete Shakespeare in hardback for under 10? (If you look hard enough

    Why would you want to hack The Grand Inquisitor out of Dostoevsky novel? You can get the entire novel for 1.99 in Wordsworth Classics!

    This is simply a Penguin marketing ploy aimed at making as much money as possible from lazy, impatient readers with intellectual pretensions. You look through the list and panic, realising you haven't read half of these canonical writers. Then you panic buy, hoping to "do" Montaigne, Locke, Shakespeare,..., whoever as quickly as can, so you can justify your intellectual pretensions to your super ego. The solution is -- don't fall for it! Bury your intellectual pretensions and concentrate on enjoying your reading. You'll never get round to reading every trendy writer even in these bite size chunks, something penguin publishers are gloating about!

    Instead - get a complete Shakespeare and Montaigne, spend the next year reading them. You might also want to make a start on the complete works of Dickens and Tolstoy. Tell yourself you'll someday get around to reading Dostoevsky (or *maybe* Locke :-)

    It's easy to get drawn in - I bought "The Myth of Sisyphus" from the series, then spotted that Everyman had it in a far less expensive (page/$ ) hardback collection of some of Camus' greatest works! I guess it would have been worth buying if I had wanted *only* this work. As it is, I'll be sticking it on ebay and buying the Everyman.

    Also - "Myth" has no notes! I guess this will be the same for the whole series -- again another way for Penguin publishers to pay for their Porsches-- no expensive academics taking a cut!
    Last edited by mal4mac; 01-11-2010 at 07:40 AM.

  3. #3
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    I also couldn't find any mention of the translator of Tao Te Ching. It'd probably be a good idea to check some Amazon reviews of different translators, see which ones get pretty good responses, then try to read a few pages of each version to decide which works best for you (maybe the SEE INSIDE feature on Amazon would be enough to compare different translations).

  4. #4
    I've got the Great Ideas series one and most of them don't seem to be abridged, even if they were I don't think there is anything wrong in getting an overview of a variety of authors and ideas. If something is heavily abridged I'm not keen on that idea, and some of them might not be very good, but for the rest and for 4.99 I can't see that these are anything but pretty good value. I mean what's 4.99?

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    In "Myth" it's on the first interior title page - "translated by Justin O'Brien". From Amazon's Look Inside feature do a search for translated by (flicking thro' the intro pages doesn't do it!) Doing this with "Tao" revel it as DC Lau - the same as for "Penguin Classics" - why hire a new translator?

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    My Complete Montaigne, one of Penguins better (if slightly expensive) productions, was discounted down to 12 and is more than ten times the length of "Classics", so 1 is about the right price. Penguin have been very clever here -- anyone reading their selected essays will be blown away by Montaigne and immediately want more. Who sells a good version of the complete essays? Penguin. So they get to sell you the essays twice! A marketing dream... can you hear them revving up the Porches...

    4.99? A weeks wages in some third world countries. I could read two of these short books in a day. 3650 a year might be nothing to you Neely, but it is to me.
    Last edited by mal4mac; 01-11-2010 at 03:28 PM.

  7. #7
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    LOL, I should have used my own "Look Inside" idea to check a bit further on the translator. Still, I think it is worth looking at a few different translations, and deciding which one seems best. That might be hard to do, on first acquaintance with that book, though...

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    Registered User Zee.'s Avatar
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    with all due respect...

    you all just sound like a bunch of snobs.


    they are a great way to make them more accessible for people, and they are a great way to educate people such as younger readers who have never heard of these 'great ideas'

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    Lau does get a honourable mention in the Oxford Guide to Translation, as does Waley (available in Wordsworth classics.) But there are so many translations! All with subtle differences. Which reveals the right Tao/way. "A myriad creatures" indeed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by limajean View Post
    ...they are a great way to make them more accessible for people, and they are a great way to educate people such as younger readers who have never heard of these 'great ideas'
    Accessible? Maybe younger people can manage without notes but I can't...

    For an introduction to 'great ideas' I'd recommend an encyclopaedia, or even wikipedia, above these hack jobs.

  11. #11
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    Seems like you think little respect was due. Anyhow, I was just giving advice. I have read a few different translations over the years, and different ones can create a different mood, I guess because of the 'emotion' I get from certain words in English. I didn't want to be snobby, but I also wouldn't want somebody to pick up a copy of the Tao Te Ching that reads boring, dry, or overly-soulless. Different translations of that book affect pretty much every word on every line, in many cases.
    If it'll help, I'll admit that I haven't read most of the books in this series, and couldn't contribute much regarding them. So, yes, it's great if the packaging and price helps draw people to them. Sorry I didn't get that your post was sort of enthusiastic for them, rather than ironic or genuinely curious for more info. I think the Tao Te Ching is definitely fantastic.

    Here's a pretty interesting link I just came across, comparing a bunch of translations:
    http://www.duhtao.com/sidebyside.html
    Last edited by billl; 01-11-2010 at 04:04 PM. Reason: link at end

  12. #12
    Literature Fiend Mariamosis's Avatar
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    You should check out Stephen Mitchell's translation of "Tao te Ching". Very good... just a thought.
    -Mariamosis

  13. #13
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mariamosis View Post
    You should check out Stephen Mitchell's translation of "Tao te Ching". Very good... just a thought.
    The two that I liked the most (but I haven't spent a lot of time with a lot of others) is the Stephen Mitchell one and one by Jane English & Gia-fu Feng. Comparing them at the link in my previous post is pretty interesting--I just checked the first chapter, and the last line there is pretty different (or not)!

    EDIT/NOTE: I think the Stephen Mitchell one is great, but not really a 'translation' and he flat-out omits some things he doesn't like in the original... I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as an 'introduction', unless one keeps that in mind.
    Last edited by billl; 01-11-2010 at 04:36 PM.

  14. #14
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by limajean View Post
    with all due respect...

    you all just sound like a bunch of snobs.


    they are a great way to make them more accessible for people, and they are a great way to educate people such as younger readers who have never heard of these 'great ideas'
    Depends - I am a library kind of guy, and not adverse, if I must buy, to buying used copies of good translations. Either way, there are plenty of text-published translations available online anyway for free, so no point wasting money on a Dao De Jing without any scholarship attached to it.

  15. #15
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mariamosis View Post
    You should check out Stephen Mitchell's translation of "Tao te Ching". Very good... just a thought.
    It's also available online for free, though seems to be a piece of pseudo-evangelical Daoism than anything else.

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