Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Anthologies: The Sampler Platter of Books

I love anthologies. They're the sampler platter of books.

Take late this morning, after I had breakfast and decided that I didn't yet want to brush the dogs, preferring instead a few minutes in my room, looking at all the stacks of books around me. I found Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, an entirely e-mail-flavored novel, and put that in an accessible stack. Then I found Buried with Books: A Reader's Anthology by Julie Rugg which is U.K.-based, since that's where the author is, and so countless British writers get space here in such topics as "Degrees of Bibliomania," "'the good practice of buying a book a day'," "Books' lives," and "'An early taste for reading'."

Naturally, I had bought this one and then forgotten about it a few weeks later. Here it was again. There I was, waiting for the mail to come today, bearing The Garner Files, James Garner's memoir which was released yesterday and was shipped to me yesterday from Amazon (I pre-ordered it in March). Sure I was also reading One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko, but it had been months since I had read an anthology that triggered me to copy titles onto a yellow legal notepad. I love anthologies for that reason, that you get samples from authors that you might want to read in full later on. You can pluck at will what you want to read and go from there.

It's why I also love the Best American series. Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Short Stories, Best American Travel Writing, always the promise that if not every single piece, there will be at least one piece that'll slam you to the wall and make you shout for more. Another series, Best Food Writing, is where I discovered Anthony Bourdain through an excerpt of Kitchen Confidential in the 2000 edition. And after being violently shaken up, down and upside down from it, I ordered Kitchen Confidential, which I still haven't read yet, but I ought to put it in the same accessible stack that Attachments is in.

The Garner Files arrived, as I expected, and in another package that also came, another anthology: Modern American Memoirs, edited by Annie Dillard and Cort Conley. Naturally, I was ordering another book when I found this one, and seldom do I read memoirs unless I'm interested in the person who wrote it, such as James Garner, Jane Fonda, or Shania Twain in the case of her From This Moment On. With this, I could explore the writings of such giant names as Wallace Stegner, Cynthia Ozick, Frank Conroy, Malcolm X, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison, and see if I'd want to read their memoirs as well.

The only problem I have with anthologies is that there are always titles I find that I want to read right away. After Mom got off the computer, I ordered from Hopscotch & Handbags, The Reluctant Bride, and My Family and Other Disasters, all by Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan (spurred on by excerpts from book-themed columns of hers featured in Buried in Books), as well as Book Book by Fiona Farrell, A Pound of Paper by John Baxter, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan, A Reading Diary by Alberto Manguel, and Library Confidential by Don Borchert. Other titles I copied onto my notepad aren't as important as these and can wait either until interest piques by what else I find out about them, or until I have a library or two or three after we move to Henderson.

I still have to read the rest of Buried in Books, and I'm crossing my fingers that I don't come upon any more I-need-it-NOW titles. The Garner Files is waiting, but I don't want to rush right into it. I'll finish this anthology and then mosey on in. I'm sure Jim Rockford would do it the same way.