Oxford Companions are known for their authority, comprehensiveness, and browsability--"the best reference books in the language," according to Harper's. Perhaps the most well-known Companion of all has been The Oxford Companion to English Literature, now in its revised fifth edition. But the literary canon isn't static, and modern literature in all of its richness demands a more comprehensive Companion to cover the wealth of contemporary writing crafted in our language: The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English. This unique new reference book to English-language writers and writing throughout the present century, in all major genres and from all around the world, covers the gamut from Joseph Conrad to Will Self, Virginia Woolf to David Mamet, Ezra Pound to Peter Carey, and James Joyce to Amy Tan.
The survivors of the Victorian age featured in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English--writers such as Thomas Hardy, Olive Schreiner, Rabindranath Tagore, and Henry James--could hardly have imagined how richly diverse "Literature in English" would become by the end of the century. Fiction, plays, poetry, and a whole range of non-fictional writing are celebrated in this informative, readable, and catholic reference book, which includes entries on literary movements, periodicals, and over 400 individual works, as well as articles on some 2,300 authors.
All the great literary figures are included, whether American or Australian, British, Irish, or Indian, African or Canadian or Caribbean--among them Samuel Beckett, Edith Wharton, Patrick White, T. S. Eliot, Derek Walcott, D. H. Lawrence, Tennessee Williams, Vladimir Nabokov, Wole Soyinka, Sylvia Plath--as well as a wealth of less obviously canonical writers, from Anaïs Nin to L. M. Montgomery, Bob Dylan to Terry Pratchett. The book comes right up to date with contemporary figures such as Toni Morrison, Ben Okri, Salman Rushdie, Carol Shields, Tim Winton, Nadine Gordimer, Vikram Seth, Don Delillo, and many others. Title entries range from Aaron's Rod to The Zoo Story; topics from Angry Young Men, Bestsellers, and Concrete Poetry to Soap Opera, Vietnam Writing, and Westerns.
A lively introduction by John Sutherland highlights the various and sometimes contradictory canons that have emerged over the century, and the increasingly international sources of writing in English which the Companion records. Catering for all literary tastes, this is the most comprehensive single-volume guide to modern (and postmodern) literature.
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About the Editor:
Jenny Stringer is a freelance writer, and co-editor of The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature.
Following close on the heels of Oxford's A Reader's Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers [RBB S 1 96] and A Reader's Guide to the Twentieth-Century Novel (1995), and only two years after the appearance of The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English [RBB Ap 15 94], this latest addition to the Oxford Companion series obviously explores much of the same territory as those works. In addition, it overlaps with other Oxford companions, such as those devoted to English, American, and Irish literature and to women's writing in the U.S. Perhaps Stringer, who assisted Margaret Drabble in compiling the Oxford Companion to English Literature, saw enough potential entrants excluded from that volume to feel that a separate work concentrating on twentieth-century Anglophone literature was needed.
The 3,000 entries in this compilation cover English-language writers and writing from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Author entries, which number approximately 2,400, are devoted primarily to novelists, playwrights, and poets, but nonfiction writers are also represented. Stringer encompasses a significant number of popular and contemporary authors (e.g., John Grisham, Ruth Rendell, Amy Tan). Still, there are notable omissions, among them Richard Bausch, Peter Carey, Gail Godwin, and Jamaica Kincaid. Of the remaining entries, 400 treat significant works, while the rest pertain to literary groups, movements, or genres; periodicals; and critical concepts. Although the entries average 270 words in length, major authors and topics (e.g., Faulkner, Joyce, Native American literature) are accorded up to 1,000 words. While some entries include 1996 publications and events (Harold Brodkey's death is noted, as is Roddy Doyle's novel The Woman Who Walked into Doors), others are not nearly as up to date. A number of deceased authors, including Wallace Stegner and Ralph Ellison, are represented as still living, and several major 1995 publications, such as Dorothy West's The Wedding, are not mentioned. Entries are unsigned, but the list of almost 100 contributors includes several prominent writers who are themselves the subjects of entries (e.g., Margaret Drabble, Alan Hollinghurst, Marina Warner). An appendix lists the winners of the three major literary prizes (Booker, Pulitzer, and Nobel) through 1995.
Although there is considerable duplication of information between this guide and other Oxford publications, the text of all its entries is new, not recycled. Moreover, it covers a number of writers not treated in the earlier works. Although it could have benefited from more meticulous editing, it provides a more comprehensive view of English-language literature during this century than any other one-volume compilation, and it should be of value in many public and academic libraries.
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