Bite-Sized Literature

Many of you might not have heard of Maurice Sagoff or know of his success from his only book, ShrinkLits: 70 of the World’s Towering Classics Cut Down to Size. If you have some free time or need a bit of light humor to distract you from today’s to-do list, you should check his book out. He condenses classic literature into humorous verse in a cutesy sort of way that many bookworms can appreciate. His venture into mock literature started out with a piece on Alice in Wonderland published in Mademoiselle magazine, which, attracted the attention of editor Elizabeth Charlotte. ShrinkLits was first published in 1970 by Doubleday and quickly made it to the New York Times best-seller list.

Here is a section taken from ShrinkLits:

Frankenstein
Mary Shelley

In his occult-science lab
Frankenstein creates a flab
Which, endowed with human will,
Very shortly starts to kill.
First, it pleads a lonely life
And demands a monster-wife;
“Monstrous!” Frankenstein objects,
Thinking of the side-effects.

Chilled with fear, he quits the scene,
But the frightful man-machine
Follows in hot pursuit
Bumping people off en route,
Till at last it stands, malign,
By the corpse of Frankenstein!
Somewhere in the northern mists
—Horrid thing — it still exists…
Still at large, a-thirst for gore!
Got a strong lock on your door?

Not all of Sagoff’s poems are 100% factually accurate to the books which they are based on, but I’m sure that being factual is not entirely his intention. He gets to the core of the piece of literature he writes about and has fun with it. It’s like a fun way of challenging yourself to summarize a novel. This actually gave me the inspiration to attempt one of my own. Naturally being a comic book nerd, I picked a graphic novel.

Julio’s Day
Gilbert Hernandez

Julio comes into a bitter sweet world
Silently crying in mother’s arms curled.
He has gone missing but is quickly found
By Uncle Juan, under a dirt mound.

Be wary of the mud, blue worms and all
Of Uncle Juan and the great fall.

Julio Juan is free and unblocked
Nightclub owner of King Cock,
Happy and lemon faced
Is not ashamed of life’s taste

Julio, after 100 pages and 100 years
Lies under his favorite tree in tears.
He leaves the bitter sweet world
The same way,
Silently crying in mother’s arms curled.
Without sun in his day.

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About Melanie Figueroa

Melanie is the Editor-in-Chief at The Poetics Project. She has a masters in writing and book publishing from Portland State University and a passion for stories in all their forms. Her favorite book is The Bell Jar. You can follow Melanie on Twitter or Instagram @wellmelsbells.
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