Extracts chosen by publisher Nicholas Parsons in his Book of Literary Lists (1985)
Beowulf ‘Admiring comment on its poetry is about as relevant as praise for the architecture of Stonehenge.’
The York Mystery Plays ‘…The Bach St Matthew Passion, Verdi’s Requiem, the Karlskirche in Vienna, and the sculpture of Michelangelo are ( as religious propaganda) a far cry from the cynically concocted doggerel of a committee of drunken monks at St Mary’s Chapel, York in 1350.
The Faerie Queen, Edmund Spenser ‘…the punishing length, utter confusion and unremitting tedium of Spenser;s contribution serve not only to impress uncreative minds, but to illustrate generally that English literature is not an easy option’.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare ‘…the prototype of Western literature’s most deplorable and most formless form, autobiographical fiction’.
Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’…it is impossible to rate his naïve and fevered imagination any higher than that of the gentlemen who walk through the West End of London with sandwich –board imploring us to flee from the wrath to come’.
Tom Jones, Henry Fielding’(Tom is ) a tom cat of remarkable passivity who has to be seduced of flattered into his series of love affairs and finishes as a jeune premier in a Doris Day musical , married to the girl next door with full parental blessing.’ Continue reading