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Mining The Classics For Laughs (Even 'Moby Dick')

Jack Murnighan is the author of <em>Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits.</em>
Jack Murnighan is the author of <em>Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits.</em>

Moby Dick, Ulysses and The Sound and the Fury can cause tremors or cold sweats just by coming up on a syllabus or in conversation at a cocktail party. And there's good reason: The terrifying trio present some real challenges to the reader (Moby Dick with its encyclopedism, Ulysses with its recondite vocabulary and constant experimentation, and The Sound and the Fury with its flip-flopping of times and names, and general narrative confusion).

But here's a secret key to finishing — and actually enjoying — these all-time intimidators: You have to realize how much humor is packed into each, and let laughter get you over the humps.

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