New in paper: literary fun, and classical Greek religion

Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert. Translated by John Raffan. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 493 pp. $9.95, paperback. As its author scrupulously warns us, this may not be a complete guide to the complex subject of Greek religion, but it is undoubtedly comprehensive and reliable, filled with fascinating information and intriguing, unsolved questions. Originally published in German in 1977, this classic study covers gods, goddesses, heroes, oracles, myths, rituals, festivals, mysteries, asceticism, and the rise of philosophy. Clearly written, well organized, erudite, and informative about modern trends in the fields of classical and religious studies, it is highly accessible to anyone with an interest in the subject. How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening: A Collection of Literary Encapsulations, compiled and edited by E.O. Parrott. New York: Viking Penguin. 188 pp. $4.95, paperback.

Here's a book that mercifully does not deliver what its title promises. On the contrary, the better read you are, the more you'll enjoy this hilarious medley of shrunken masterpieces. Highlights include a blues ballad version of Kafka's ``Metamorphosis''; Virgil's ``Aeneid'' as Robert Burns might have written it; and ``Jude the Obscure'' as a series of letters to an advice columnist whose bad advice is shown to have caused the story's sad outcome! The 31 contributors are veteran players of the literary competitions featured in British magazines like The New Statesman and The Spectator. For some reason, they manage to be even funnier in book format, perhaps because they were given more freedom to choose whichever mode of ``encapsulation'' would be the most perfectly incongruous to the subject.

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