An unrivalled collection of literary gossip and intimate sidelights on the lives of the authors. This hugely entertaining anthology ranges from Chaucer to the present day, with anecdotes that are hilarious, touching, outrageous, sinister, inspiring, and downright weird.
Gross (A Double Thread), former editor of the New York Times and Times Literary Supplement, has compiled more than 700 anecdotes about English-language writers, from Geoffrey Chaucer to J.K. Rowling. The brief, chronologically-arranged (by subject's birth date) entries offer a glimpse into the personalities and times of these authors. In some cases, italicized commentary explains context. The material is often humorous, e.g., Bertrand Russell's advice on how to "make" a girl; and perhaps surprising, e.g., Wilkie Collins's self-administered daily doses of laudanum. Because the entries are largely biographical, this collection is as much a contribution to social history as to literary criticism, though it would best be dipped into for the purposes of trivia-not reference or research. It builds on The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes (1975) and The Oxford Book of American Literary Anecdotes (1981), with about a ten percent overlap of content. Gross makes no claim to have recherary figures-he further admits that many of the entries "have no direct bearing on authorship or literary life"-but literature lovers will find juicy tidbits and surprising revelations on every page. For public library collections.-Rebecca Bollen Manalac, Sydney, Australia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Oxford University Press
November 14, 2008
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