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A better class of failure

Nicolas Walter says that all anthologies are failures-but this is a good one

By Nicolas Walter   November 1998

All anthologies are failures. How can a garden be represented by a bunch of flowers (the original meaning of anthology) or a big subject by a collection of extracts? Most anthologies of literature, like compilations of music or albums of paintings, are positive obstacles to the appreciation of original work. The least unsuccessful are either very personal or very authoritative. The former depend on the individual flair of the editor; the latter depend on the collective force of editor and publisher, the combination of great expertise and great expense; and are better when the subject is narrow or the book…

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