Hall Press, 2001
the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon made the comment:
Of making many books there is no end. Those words have
never been as true as they are in the age of e-books, mega-bookstores,
and countless writing genres of which Solomon would never even have
dreamed. With such a massive number of books to choose from, readers
can only welcome guides that give them some idea where to start.
Literature Lover's Companion
is yet another guide that claims
to be absolutely indispensable to the serious reader. It includes
entries on authors from about 1000 BC to the present. The book is
eclectic but not wilfully obscure, including writers of a truly
literary nature as well as those who belong more to
the realm of pop culture. Its author biographies are clear and concise.
However, the guide has failings as well as advantages.
An excellent feature
of the Companion
is the short description of the author that
appears by each name, telling the reader where the author comes
from and what genres they write in. For example, A.S. Byatt is listed
as English novelist, biographer, and critic, while Dean
Koontz is an American horror writer. Dates of birth
and death are also included. The short biographies contain some
interesting anecdotes and insights. Readers may not have known that
the science fiction writer Harlan Ellison sometimes likes to write
short stories while seated in a shop window. The biography of the
19th century horror writer Ambrose Bierce offers the bizarre fact
that his father gave all 13 children in the family names beginning
the brevity of the entries sometimes results in errors and omissions.
For instance, Chrétien de Troyes is said to be "the first to
write down the legendary stories of King Arthur and his knights
of the Round Table." In fact, Chrétien was preceded by other
Arthurian writers, including the well-known Geoffrey of Monmouth.
The lists of published works are useful, but incomplete, a fact
which not everyone might notice. They tend to give too much emphasis
to the authors best-known works, forgetting lesser-known books
which are just as good or better. The list for Astrid Lindgren,
the Swedish writer of books for children, includes her famous Pippi
Longstocking books but overlooks her hard-to-find masterpiece The
. The entry for Arthur Conan Doyle includes
only his Sherlock Holmes stories, and none of his other fiction
is a good basic guide to world literature.
It might lead the reader to other authors that he or she would not
otherwise have found and it is generally clear and well-written.
Like many reference works of this sort, however, it is best consulted
alongside other, similar guides, so as to get a more complete picture.