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Library Journal Review
The esteemed, 75-year-old Oxford Companion to English Literature (OCEL), long a reference classic, forms the cornerstone of the foundation on which the ever-expanding edifice of the "Oxford Companion" series rests. Like its predecessors, this revised sixth edition, first published in 2000, contains accurate, up-to-date entries-8500 in all, approximately 200 of them new. These entries, unsigned and ranging in length from a few to more than 2000 words each, cover authors, literary movements and terms, critical theories, genres, publishers, plot summaries, and characters. Drabble's new revision includes numerous additions and deletions, ensuring the standing of OCEL into the 21st century. The additions come from a continuing effort to update the content by including more entries on women and postcolonial writers and on critical theory. To make room for the newer content, some material has been cut: the "general knowledge" entries, coverage of artists and musicians, some entries on characters, entries for individual works of prolific classical authors, and some cross references. What remains is the best available one-volume reference on English literature, not literature in English (though many literatures and authors in languages other than English are treated in the context of English literature). The appendixes include a detailed chronology of English literature from 1000 to 2005 and a historical list of poets laureate and literary awards. Bottom Line Careful selection is so obvious here that citing some of the unavoidable absences seems churlish. The writing is good, even stylish. While still aimed primarily at general readers, this volume offers comprehensive scope and rigorous treatment, making it useful to scholars, students, and journalists as well as to the libraries-large and small, academic and public-serving them. Only libraries on tight budgets holding the fifth or original sixth edition might want to wait for the arrival of a seventh. Highly recommended.-Paul D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-This revision of the sixth edition adds material but not pages. The chronology, awards lists, and entries include works published through 2005, but entries from the previous edition have not been revised; the last case of Internet censorship cited is from 1999. Of the 16 two-page essays on various genres, only 2 have been given slight alterations ("Children's Literature" has lost its condescending conclusion). This edition contains more information on female and ethnically diverse writers. There are some omissions; for example, Alan Furst is left out of the "Spy Fiction" essay, and Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) earns only one sentence, in "Irish playwrights, new." "Gay and lesbian literature," which is no longer a separate essay, fails to mention several significant works, though they are treated elsewhere. Altogether absent from the book are authors such as W. G. Sebald, David Mitchell, and Ismail Kadare. Some choices are puzzling: Denise Levertov has twice Richard Wilbur's space; readers are told how to pronounce "Carew," but not "Bewick" (or Coetzee, Milosz, etc.). Flashes of wit-on "horror": "for every King there are a dozen or more knaves"-and verve ("Lads' literature"), leaven the learning. This is still the title to heft if you need elegant plot summaries, or help with anaphora, isocolon, and their ilk. However, for most purposes the previous edition still suffices.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This is a "revised" version of the 5th edition (1985) of a favorite reference warhorse. Entries for contemporary authors have been thoroughly updated (see Anthony Burgess), as have original 1985 entries (for instance, LeFaye's edition of Chapman's Jane Austen letters is mentioned). Completely new articles for 59 individuals have been added, among them Monica Dickens, P.D. James, Martin Amis, W. Robertson Davies, Paul Theroux, and Gore Vidal. Major changes have been made in the appendix; gone are detailed articles "Censorship and the Law of the Press," "Notes on the History of English Copyright," and the wonderful calendar tables giving regnal years, explaining the mysteries of 1752, and giving dates of moveable feasts and saints' days. Included instead are a useful (for unprepared or forgetful readers) chronology, 1000 to 1994, that cites major works, authors, and reigning monarchs; lists of British poets laureate; winners of the Nobel and Booker prizes; and the Library Association Carnegie medalists. Most academic and public libraries will want this revision for its new entries and revisions. Those on starvation budgets may comfortably postpone purchase until a sixth edition appears. A. F. Dalbey; College of Marin