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Also of interest ... four classics revisited

<em>The Moment of Psycho</em> by David Thomson; <em>The Canterbury Tales</em> a retelling by Peter Ackroyd; <em>Reading Jesus</em> by Mary Gordon; <em>The War That Killed Achilles </em>by Caroline A

The Moment of Psycho by David Thomson (Basic, $23)This “virtuoso” look back at the 1960 debut of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a reminder of “how much a film critic can still do,” said Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News. Psycho embraced sexuality and violence and “told censorship to get lost.” On a deeper level, it announced that noir’s “disillusionment with the dream of happiness was about to overtake” America’s way of life. Thomson captures the film’s milieu in such a “brilliant way” that you’ll feel as if you’re seeing it for the first time.

The Canterbury Tales a retelling by Peter Ackroyd (Viking $35)Novelist Peter Ackroyd has created “the only version” of Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century masterpiece that most readers will ever need, said Lisa Mullen in Time Out London. He has converted Chaucer’s Middle English verse into more welcoming prose and actually excised the monologues of two “turgidly pious” pilgrims. What’s left is an otherwise faithful rendition of the “peculiar, rambling,” and sometimes bawdy story collection. What Ackroyd finds worth relishing, you’ll relish too.

Reading Jesus by Mary Gordon (Pantheon, $25)There is no “natural audience” for a literary novelist’s meditations on the stories of the four Christian Gospels, said Lisa Miller in Newsweek.com. But Mary Gordon has been living with Jesus and his parables since her Catholic childhood, and in returning to them, she teaches us to love the things a good writer ought to love. Gordon cherishes the “paradoxes and inconsistencies” in Jesus’ character and teachings, and even the Gospels’ many reminders that “life is not fair.”

The War That Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander (Viking, $27)Historian Caroline Alexander is “hardly the first writer” to point out that Homer’s Iliad can be read as one of the world’s “greatest anti-war epics,” said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. By interrogating Homer with questions that haunt thoughtful warriors to this day, Alexander makes the ancient stories come to life. The trouble is, she refers so often to Richmond Lattimore’s unparalleled 1951 translation that readers may wonder why they’re not simply rereading Lattimore.

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