Penguins Little Black Classics is a brilliant idea. Short, bitesize books of literary classics at a very low price. The problem with the execution of this idea is, on the other hand, that some of these books are utterly worthless.
In a time when book publishers have to compete with the internet, and all its content and ease of access, the publishers have to be better than the internet.
For example, the Edgar Allen Poe compilation The Tell-Tale Heart presents three of Poe’s most important short stories – previously mentioned The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Cask of Amontillado. A brilliant introduction to the works of Poe, for anyone interested in reading the essential classics.
The book could’ve been made even better, by adding a short analysis as to why these works are important, since it has some pages to spare.
Now, on the other side of the spectrum, we have the Oscar Wilde book Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast. I haven’t read much by Wilde, and thought this would be something similar to the Poe book – i.e. an introductory compilation of essential short stories, or similar, to the author’s work. But it isn’t. Only Dull People is a collection of Wilde’s famous one-liners. While most of them are shewed and brilliant, I don’t really see the point of collecting them, out of context, on their own, stacked upon each other, in a book.
Why? Because this is something the internet is much better for. Unrefined, raw information, presented out of context. Something anyone can do and put out there.
The publisher really needs to make their products worth while. Provide analysis. Provide context and refinement. Otherwise, what’s the point?
The Tell-Tale Heart I will probably read many times over in my lifetime. Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast I will not. Not through any fault of Wilde, but this collection is pointless in the presence of the internet. The novelty of it wore off about half way through.