Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
originally published 1886
this edition Barnes & Noble Classics
2003 w/ Introduction and Notes by Jenny Davidson

  Is it fair to Robert Louis Stevenson to say that he's over-represented in the original edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die?  He's got four books on the original list: Treasure Island- his break-out hit- published in 1883.  Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- both published in 1886- and The Master of Ballantrae- 1889.

  Having now read all four novels- I feel like the answer is yes, he is over-represented with four titles in the original edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  There is no way to deny Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- but considering the sheer number of possible contenders, it's rather harder to make a case for Kidnapped and The Master of Ballantrae- even though they both possess the outstanding quality of being action packed, brief and easy to read.

   Stevenson is an Author who was as popular as he could be for a while- and then had that favor rescinded in a way that is familiar to students of other artistic genres- his success created a back lash, mostly by inspiring his followers to make him into some kind of bohemian hero saint.  ANNOYING!

  Still, there's no denying the enduring appeal of the Stevenson canon- Treasure Island- pretty much directly responsible for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise- and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde having entered the popular consciousness as a synonym for a schizophrenic personality.  Quite an achievement evening leaving out Kidnapped and Master of Ballantrae.

  Stevenson was hardly original in his subject matter- but his treatment of familiar themes was bracing and engaging.   Stevensons prose style was effortless- a forerunner to the airport novel style of the best seller list- and he's probably contributed as much to popular fiction as any other Author.

  Shame he's not taken more seriously today- I think his work could teach would-be Artists of many different genres how to maintain Artistic integrity while pleasing a broad Audience.

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