Monday, 8 November 2010

One Hundred Great Books in Haiku

by David Bader
Developed by Zen monks possibly suffering from attention deficit disorder, these poems were packed with keen insights on frogs and cherry blossom yet short enough to be recited in a single breath. Japanese readers could experience and savour the finest haiku of Bashō in its entirety (three lines), while Western readers of, say, John Milton’s Paradise Lost (10,000 lines) were still staring at the title page.

Even if you hate this book (its author, haiku, poetry in general), you can’t complain that it is too long. It took me less than ten minutes to read through one hundred books. And for terminally lazy, there is an index in the end, so you don’t spend any time looking for that Dostoyevsky (page 42). Most of the haiku here indeed have seventeen syllables, except for this one:

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Laurence Sterne
I’ve torn out line two.

Reader, it was dull.

Beats the nine volumes of the original, I say.

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