20 March 2009

And that's not all she wrote

Alexandra Jacobs begins her New York Times review of the new anthology MY LITTLE RED BOOK by asking whether there are too many nonfiction anthologies already, specifically of the type aimed at women.
Ever since the success of “The Bitch in the House,” a 2002 anthology of personal musings by frustrated upper-middle-class wives, editors have enthusiastically hacked the layer cake of modern female experience into narrower and narrower slices. Have you fretted about money? Suffered through a painful break-up? Had a close gay male pal? There’s an anthology for you, sister girlfriend.
I have not read THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE, nor will I probably seek out MY LITTLE RED BOOK unless enthusiastically recommended by someone I know. And I think the idea that there are too many anthologies is kind of pointless, because as long as they sell, there will be more. If this is just a publishing fad, then why are we bickering about it?

The trouble with anthologies is that even when you hit an essay that makes an incredibly obvious point, labors over a metaphor that should never have existed or contains no more plot than its title winked at, you keep turning the pages anyway to see if the next one will be better. If you finish a collection and it hasn't wowed you, though, perhaps the editor is to blame.

That's the conclusion I came to, at least, after finishing another recently published anthology for which I had at least moderately high hopes. I learned about it after one of the stories contained was published in the Times' Modern Love column -- yes, I occasionally still read it, because I never learn -- and it was an essay that I can honestly say shocked me when I first read it. Unfortunately, only two of the other pieces in the collection, which touted its sauciness as a selling point, ever got close to that threshold for me. Most of them were aggressively boring, to the point where I don't even want to single out the most boring among them.

I still finished it, but I'm glad I didn't buy it. What I really need now is an anthology of anthologies which will find me the best anthologies out there, which would probably make Jacobs' head explode.

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