Books: The Geat Generation

GRENDEL by John Gardner. 174 pages. Knopf. $5.95.

Readers who may have wondered ever since freshman English what it feels like to have an arm torn off by Beowulf in Hrothgar's meadhall can now relax. It hurts like the devil. "I bawl like a baby. I am slick with blood," cries Grendel in this splendid fiend's-eye view of an Anglo-Saxon epic. "My heart booms with terror." Yet as Novelist John Gardner retells the story, much of Grendel's pain is pure philosophical chagrin.

The poetic genius who originally shaped Beowulf around the monster and the Geatish champion was busy trying to blend heroism and...

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