Make better anthologies
Ahead of my salon series (How to Read a Novel), which starts next week with Persuasion, I went on the Interintellect podcast. We talked about the books I wish had been written, among other things. I would like to see better anthologies. Where is the Oxford Book of Business Writing? Some of the best things in this area I have read are the Tiger Oil Memos, which Letters of Note put online. And there’s a good Twitter account posting internal tech company emails. Perhaps it is too soon for that sort of thing to be in an anthology, but are not books falling behind here? The Assassin’s Cloak is one of my favourite anthologies, but it’s hopelessly literary and intellectual. Can there not be something done here? More please!
I would like to see Writers Writing About Writing, the Oxford Book of Ephemera, which perhaps is being done by Lists of Note but why just lists? Books of old adverts and cartoons are excellent. More, more!
The Norton anthology Leadership is the best one I own or have read — but what about Failure or Mediocrity or Disappointment as a subject? Or Misanthropy? The Faber Book of London and the Oxford Book of Work are both good up to a point, but perhaps more in the mode of the Oxford Book of Anecdotes. Anthologies are too often done as a way of spooling material out of existing fields of enquiry. Leadership works because it cuts across mode, genre, style, time. The Anatomy of Melancholy would be a better model for the future, perhaps.
And why can’t we extend the scope a little? There’s an Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing. There ought to be books of social science, material chosen for its concision of prose, and originality of thinking. What about other areas? Publishers, industrialists, inventors. I am not sure I can find a good anthology of the housewife. Do we have such things for television, radio, criticism?
What about the best blogs in a book? The Browser ought to make an anthology. As should Marginal Revolution. What is being done to anthologise the internet? Are we not due the Norton Book of Silicon Valley?
This is a tame genre that could do with a few more exciting additions. Suggestions below please. What anthologies do I not know about that you would recommend?
How to Read a Novel
Starting on 6th September, once a month for six months I am holding a discussion salon called How to Read a Novel. Think of it as a bookclub setting where we will learn about the techniques novelists use. Each month we read a short, classic novel and talk about how it works. We will cover beginnings, morality, patterns, character, irony, and precision. All important novelistic techniques. The first novel is Persuasion by Jane Austen where we will talk about openings. Why is it that a romance spends so long talking about the Baronetage in its first pages? And where is the heroine? The aim of these sessions is to enable you to read the clues that novelists leave and to get the most out of your reading. Get all the details here.
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