Synopses & Reviews
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.
"...good for endless hours of random reading. Open at any page, at any time. You will be rewarded in unexpected ways, by unexpected writers."--William Grimes, New York Times
"An agreeable and quite funny bookish companion."--Los Angeles Times
"Literature lovers will find juicy tidbits and surprising revelations on every page."--Library Journal
"Contains scores of delightful items.... All the anecdotes are set out in the elegant, unobtrusive manner that one is accustomed to from other of Mr. Gross's handsome anthologies for Oxford."--The Wall Street Journal
"I would argue that, after food, shelter, and sex, anecdotes are an absolute necessity to human life. After all, the only thing that makes most of our agonizing experiences endurable is the potential for turning them into amusing anecdotes.... full of such juicy tidbits, along with more serious or even poignant reflections."--Booklist
Many of the anecdotes in this volume offer revealing insights into writers' personalities, their frailties and insecurities. Some 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.
In The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes, master anthologist John Gross brings together a delectable smorgasbord of literary tales, offering striking new insight into some of the most important writers in history. Many of the anecdotes here are funny, others are touching, outrageous, sinister, inspiring, or downright weird. They show writers from Chaucer to Bob Dylan acting both unpredictably and deeply in character. The range is wide--this is a book which finds room for Milton and Shakespeare, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman, Kurt Vonnegut and P. G. Wodehouse, Chinua Achebe and Salman Rushdie, James Baldwin and Tom Wolfe. 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 experienced a haunting encounter with Virginia Woolf not long before her death, and what Agatha Christie really thought of her popular character Hercule Poirot. It is in short an unrivalled collection of literary gossip offering intimate glimpses into the lives of authors ranging from Shakespeare to Philip Roth--a book not just for lovers of literature, but for anyone with a taste for the curiosities of human nature.
About the Author
was editor of the TLS
from 1973-81, editor and staff writer on the New York Times
from 1983-8, and theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph
from 1989-2005. For OUP he has edited the Oxford Books of Aphorisms, Essays
and Comic Verse
, The New Oxford Book of English Prose
and After Shakespeare
. His other books include The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters
, Shylock: A Legend and its Legacy
, and A Double Thread
Table of Contents
The subjects of the anecdotes include all the major British, American, and Commonwealth writers, starting with Chaucer, Sir Thomas More and Sir Walter Raleigh, then Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, Milton, Johnson, Swift, Pope, Hume, Edmund Burke, Gibbon, Jefferson, the Romantics, Fenimore Cooper, Macaulay, Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Thoreau, Douglass, Melville, Whitman, Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, Twain, Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, Cather, Robert Frost, Carson McCuller, Salinger, Mailer, Larkin, Vonnegut, Burroughs, Bellow, Churchill, James Baldwin, Tom Wolfe, Updike, Philip Roth, Wole Soyinka, Les Murray, Margaret Atwood, Stoppard, Coetzee, Chatwin, Bob Dylan, Rushdie, McEwan, Amis, Jeanette Winterson etc