The dictionary defines an anecdote as "a short account of an entertaining or interesting incident," and the anecdotes in this collection more than live up to that description. Many of them offer revealing insights into writers' personalities, their frailties and insecurities. Some of the anecdotes are funny, often explosively so, while others are touching, sinister, or downright weird. They show writers in the English-speaking world from Chaucer to the present acting both unpredictably, and deeply in character.
The range is wide -- this is a book that finds room for anecdotes about Milton and Margaret Atwood, George Eliot and Salman Rushdie, Chinua Achebe and Bob Dylan, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Wittgenstein. The authors of the anecdotes are equally diverse, from the diarists John Aubrey, John Evelyn and James Boswell to fellow writers such as W. H. Auden, Harriet Martineau, Walter Scott, Evelyn Waugh, and Vanessa Bell.
It is also a book in which you can find out which great historian's face was once mistaken for a baby's bottom, which film star left a haunting account of Virginia Woolf not long before her death, and what Agatha Christie really thought of Hercule Poirot. The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes is a book not just for lovers of literature, but for anyone with a taste for the curiosities of human nature.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
September 10, 2008
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