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Book of Prefaces: A Short History of Literate Thought in Words by Great Writers of Four Nations from the 7th to the 20th Century.

GRAY, Alasdair (editor).

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ISBN 10: 0747544433 / ISBN 13: 9780747544432
Editorial: Bloomsbury Publishing,, London:, 2000
Condición: Near Fine Encuadernación de tapa dura
Librería: Grendel Books, ABAA/ILAB (West Chesterfield, MA, Estados Unidos de America)

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Illustrated by the author. First British edition. INSCRIBED by Alasdair Gray and someone else. Near fine in a near fine dust jacket.; 640 pages. N° de ref. de la librería 78458

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Detalles bibliográficos

Título: Book of Prefaces: A Short History of ...

Editorial: Bloomsbury Publishing,, London:

Año de publicación: 2000

Encuadernación: Hardcover

Condición del libro:Near Fine

Condición de la sobrecubierta: Near Fine

Edición: 1st Edition

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While Alasdair Gray has chosen and edited all the prefaces and has written most of the commentary he has been assisted in this endeavour by some thirty authors who have also written commentaries. These include James Kelman, Janice Galloway, A.L. Kennedy, Bernard MacLaverty, Liz Lochhead, Roger Scruton and, indeed, Virginia Woolf. A copy of the "Book of Prefaces" should be found in every household and hotel bedroom. It is a unique work of literature, indeed a history of literature which will delight and amaze and inform both casual browsers and students. Its like has never been seen nor will it be seen again for at least another millennium.


The preface usually contains one of four pleasures, says anthologist Alasdair Gray. There is the biographical snippet, full of gossipy details that "make us feel at home in earlier times." There is the author's attempt to forestall criticism (in first editions) or to answer it (in later ones). There is the report on the state of civilization, both favorable (see Walt Whitman) and unfavorable (see Karl Marx). And there is the attack on other writers or translators, sometimes bridging centuries and containing spears thrown at the long dead. All four pleasures are well represented in this 640-page treasury of English and American intros, which runs from an A.D. 675 translation of Genesis to the 1920 poems of Wilfred Owen. Why stop there? "The flow is stopped at 1920," admits Gray in his own disarmingly self-effacing preface, "by costs of using work still in copyright."

This is anything but anthology-on-the-cheap, however. Gray (Lanark and A History Maker) poured 16 years of research into The Book of Prefaces, and adds considerable value with his own running commentary, which straggles down the margins in brash red ink. Gray on the God of Genesis: "This God, with revenge in mind, first makes earth ugly as hell." Among God's anthologized fellows are Mark Twain, who defends his use of Southern dialect in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Lewis Carroll, who anticipates his critics' charges of writing nonsense in The Hunting of the Snark and proceeds to prove their case; and Charles Darwin, who recalls how the seeds of The Origin of Species were sown aboard the HMS Beagle. Gray mixes scholarly research with playful eccentricities: When was the last time you saw a book's typesetter, typist, and publisher memorialized in pen-and-ink drawings? And "with this in their lavatory," writes the cheeky author, "everyone else can read nothing but newspaper supplements and still seem educated." He may be right. --Claire Dederer

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