I have no idea when or how the NYRB classics series began, but it is amazing. You know how the Penguin Classics are every book you’ve ever heard of but never read? Well the NYRB classics are every book that you ought to have heard. They’re fantastic. And there’s a definite aesthetic tilt to the books, too. Where Penguin Classics are often long and serious, the NYRB classics are often slim and light. Still important. Still beautiful. But light. A perfect example is Dezso Kosztolanyi’s Skylark. A very short Hungarian novel about two parents who rediscover how to live life when their awful daughter goes away for the weekend.
Enthusing about Boleslaw Prus made me think about all the fantastic NYRB classics I’ve blogged about over the past two years:
- Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity
- Stefan Zweig’s Confusion
- Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado
- Edith Wharton’s New York Stories
- Richard Hughes’ High Wind In Jamaica
- Benito Perez Galdos’ Tristana
- John Williams’ Stoner
- Dwight MacDonald’s Masscult and Midcult
- Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel
- Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes
- Felix Feneon’s Novels In Three Lines
In most cases, I only heard about these books because they were NYRB classics. The Doll, for instance, is a book I came across by browsing their catalogue. Nothing more. They’re beautiful and well-chosen books. Love them. If it wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive (and if I didn’t read everything on the kindle), I’d buy every single one of them as they came out and arrange them on my bookshelf in long rows.