Keep Calm & Read A Book
Okay, now that we’re all on board for the Trumpseidon Adventure (or the Towering Trumpferno, if you prefer), let’s calm down. How? By reading a good book, of course! Not the lovely ‘Lost Cases of Bryant & May’ now climbing the charts as an e-book in the US for a low, low price and available here as an elegant paperback called ‘London’s Glory’ because you’ll have read that already, end of advert, but something else.
I’ve always loved collecting anthologies, and own some very odd ones. Isaac Asimov gathered together apocalyptic tales under the title ‘Catastrophe!’, with an all-star cast tackling worst-case global scenarios. He didn’t think of Trump, sadly.
One of the oddest anthologies is ‘Poolside’, which unusually does not credit its editor. It’s a standout collection of stories all involving swimming pools. John Cheever’s state-of-the-nation classic ‘The Swimmer’ is here, along with Edna O’Brien’s ‘Paradise’. ‘Poolside’ looks like a normal book but is printed with waterproof paper so that it can be read in a swimming pool.
‘Black Humor’ excerpted examples of that particularly hard-to-define literary technique from Edward Albee, John Rechy, Thomas Pynchon and Terry Southern, edited by who was following on from André Breton’s more international anthology of the same name. What had changed between the former and the latter was the idea of what constituted black humour; judging from a back-to-back reading of the two anthologies, the world has become a more taboo-busting but more tasteless place.
We often forget that Playboy magazine had a long and illustrious history of publishing original short stories, from writers like Ray Bradbury, Jack Finney and Robert Bloch, and the best ones were published in their own nifty anthology.
It’s not unusual for anthologies to feature excerpts from novels that can stand alone as examples of good fiction. A late chapter from Evelyn Waugh’s ‘A Handful of Dust’ is sometimes collected as a standalone tale, ‘The Man Who Liked Dickens’.
For over forty years, John Julius Norwich sent friends ‘Christmas Crackers’ instead of a Christmas cards. These were quirky literary oddments that simply struck his fancy, and the best were collected in a number of anthologies.
‘Car Sinister’ explored the more alarming aspects of our driving obsession and is not for ‘Top Gear’ addicts. Legendary agent Kirby McCauley put together one of the best-ever collections of intelligent stories of suspense and the supernatural in ‘Dark Forces’ and its sequel.
For world stories, Alberto Manguel’s remarkable ‘Black Water’ and ‘White Fire’ head the list; they’re huge and very well chosen.
Too many anthologies used to under-represent female authors, but a volume called ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ sparked off a two-decade long set of anthologies from the Master of Suspense that proved massively influential, and rebalanced the field by featuring a great many female authors who’d had little previous exposure in the UK. Hitchcock lent his name to a huge number of them, and emerges as the unlikely saviour of many a rare work. These paperback originals are now very collectable, and command good prices.
There’s that should keep you going through the days ahead.