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The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdote

John Gross (Editor)

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Oxford University Press

Published : 2006

Copyright : John Gross 2006

ISBN-10 : HB 0-192-80468-5
ISBN-13 : HB 978-0-192-80468-6

Publisher's Write-Up

An unrivalled collection of literary gossip and intimate sidelights on the lives of the authors

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 are funny, often explosively so. Others are touching, outrageous, sinister, inspiring, 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 which finds room for Milton and Margaret Atwood, George Eliot and P. G. Wodehouse, Chinua Achebe and Ian Fleming, Brendan Behan and Wittgenstein. 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 - a book not just for lovers of literature, but for anyone with a taste for the curiosities of human nature.

'A great feast of stories...'

Mail on Sunday

'John Gross has produced a fascinating book.'

Financial Times Magazine

''hugely enjoyable.'


'A great feast of stories.'

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (300906) Rating (9/10)

Review by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Rating 9/10
This book, this Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes, is a temptress.

I am tempted, to simply spew back trivia and humour about the literary denizens that populate its pages rather than give you a solid review. I am tempted to read it clear through rather than use it as a reference. Its entries tempt (and inspire!) me to write an essay, a rant, even this review!

I have a poetry mentor, Suzanne Lummis, who appreciates all things 'witty.' She will love this book. Edited by critic John Gross, this book is a veritable assembly of wit from Chaucer to J. K. Rowling. I liked that it moved along in time, more or less in a direct line. That enabled me to place the clever in context with its time, both in terms of the culture at large as well as the literary peers of the person being oh, so ably, tattled upon.

Gross also manages to include much that is new (to me at least) rather than refrying the same old Churchill stories however appropriate they might be for a volume like this. He also manages to combine the nearly-straight reporting style of a journalist but, in the tradition of the writer that he is, also make the tart entries entertaining.

This book is a bit pricey at $29.95* (those of you who know me, know my own writing propounds frugality as an asset essential for starving authors). Because I see how essential this book is for writers, I strongly recommend it anyway. I also suggest you check out where it is discounted by 37% and also available used at a little less than that.

A Reference that Entertains as Readily as It Informs.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson (30th September 2006)

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