We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But we do. And often.
That’s why Pulp! Classics have come up with their crazy covers. We’ve been trained to think of the classics as dour, dry, descriptive and dire. But they’re not. They’re wild, wicked, wayward and whacky. And Pulp!Classics get this.
Some people may find these covers disrespectful, but that’s why I like them. We shouldn’t lock these vibrant and dynamic novels up in a museum, they shouldn’t be forced upon resistant students, broken into bits and studied to within an inch of their life – they should be celebrated as the bestsellers they are. These are the most popular of popular novels!
Review by John Purcell
Though it looks harmless, this book is dangerous.
You may think you know the story. It has been retold in picture story books, comics, bad movies and cartoons. A handsome man has his portrait painted. He remains youthful and the painting ages, taking on all of his sins. Things don’t end well.
A horror story. How quaint.
Oscar Wilde has just distracted you. In your hands is a ticking time-bomb of a novel. Inside he has packed enough pointed barbs, acid remarks and dry wit to blow apart the hypocrisy of the world we live in. Vanity, greed, self-delusion, falseness are the eternal foe of the truth seeker, they are not confined to Oscar Wilde’s times.
This book is dangerous because, if you are good natured, it will leave you equipped to defend culture against the brute and the boor. But if you are wicked of heart… well… who knows what you’ll make of these witty weapons.
Review by John Purcell
Everyone loves Gatsby. He’s the man of the hour. He spends up big. He’s handsome. He is friends with the right people. He has great parties.
But when the morning comes and your head is clear and you think about that guy Gatsby, you have to admit, you know nothing about him.
Fitzgerald’s most famous creation, The Great Gatsby, takes a long hard look at the flashier side of the American dream and finds there are more shadows than sparks.
I have met people who declare there is no better book than The Great Gatsby – they read it over and over and over. And I understand why. There is always more in it.
Forget the films. Forget those teachers who may or may not have tried to force it down your throats. Forget that it’s a ‘great book’. Read it like you would any other book. And with your guard down, the book may just get a few good punches in.
When you’re eighteen or so, hanging out in Switzerland with two of the most reviled/revered men in the world, if you have nothing better to do, why not write one of the finest novels ever written?
That’s what Mary Shelley did.
On a dark and stormy night, Mary, her husband, the poet Shelley, and their friend, the very wicked Lord Byron, the most famous man in the world at that time, were just sitting around when they decided to pass the time by coming up with ghoulish stories.
The story Mary Shelley came up with was Frankenstein. As you do. (She was the daughter of two of the finest minds in England, but even so, wow!)
Frankenstein is as much about a monster as Dorian Gray is about a painting in the attic. Mary Shelley uses the monster, who has to learn how to be human, to expose our greatness and our meanness.
This heartbreaking book is so much more than a ghoulish tale, which is why it has been read by every generation since its birth two hundred years ago. It is ever youthful, ever relevant, ever frightening and ever meaningful. You really must read it.
When you think James Joyce, you probably think Ulysses. That grand mess of a book many people aspire one day to read. And you probably should read it… one day.
But can I make one suggestion? Read Joyce’s other books, Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, first.
Ulysses makes much more sense if you follow the road Joyce trod himself – the road from the nineteenth century into the twentieth. You see, before he could take a mallet to the great tradition of the novel, he had something to prove.
Dubliners is a statement – facing the past Joyce declares, I can write like the best of you. Better even.
And it was true. Dubliners takes the style of the late nineteenth century greats, Henry James, George Eliot, etc and lifts it a notch. He finds things hiding in that austere mode of writing that no one knew were there.
Ulysses would change writing forever. The stories which make up the Dubliners are the first steps towards that greatness, and if he’d never written another word, these stories would have been enough to ensure his name was not forgotten.
Review by John Purcell
When I first read Heart of Darkness I loved it. It was short, straight talking and interesting. A man went up a river to find a guy who didn’t want to be found. I thought it would make a good movie.
The second time I read Heart of Darkness I hated it. It was an overlong short story or an unfinished novel, it was obscure for no good reason and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
The third time I read Heart of Darkness I didn’t read it, it read me. Suddenly the book had nothing to do with a boat trip up a river. There was no adventure, no quest, no journey even.
It is funny how books do this. If Heart of Darkness hadn’t been so short I probably wouldn’t have read it so often and I would never have known what the book could mean to me.
I don’t recommend Heart of Darkness in the way I recommend other books. Just make sure there is a copy in your home. When the time comes, you’ll pick it up. It’s only short. No harm can come of it. Surely.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.