Jeremy Lewis

What Adam Told Eve

The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes

By

Oxford University Press 384pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Back in the 1970s, James Sutherland prompted a flurry of Oxford anthologies with his hugely successful Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes. Though much admired at the time, it was, as far as the lay reader was concerned, a fairly tedious piece of work, in that too many of the extracts were from obscure writers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – which made sense in terms of copyright fees, but lent a somewhat antiquarian flavour to the proceedings. Taking us all the way from Chaucer and Thomas More to Jeanette Winterson and J K Rowling, John Gross’s replacement volume is a good deal broader in its scope (he is particularly strong on the Victorians and Edwardians, and includes American and Commonwealth writers as well as British), but it, too, is a curiously disconcerting volume, at least on first acquaintance.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,
    • 'A modest and retiring man, Thompson spent his life describing apple varieties and recommending the best – Ribston… ,
    • 'Macfarlane is a poet with the instincts of a thriller writer, an autodidact in botany, mycology, geology and palae… ,
    • 'Some scholars attribute Shakespeare’s pre-eminence to four centuries of propaganda and not to the fact that Hamlet… ,
    • RT : We would appreciate any retweets ,
    • We've just stumbled on a gem from the LR archive. The emoluments page from May 1995, in which one reviewer asked to… ,
    • Unlike Mary Shelley's monstrous creation, Jeanette Winterson's Frankenstein-inspired novel feels 'barely alive', sa… ,