Tuesday's Book: Sentimental journeys

'Loss' (edited by Elizabeth Barker); 'Childhood' (edited by Kate Figes); 'First Love' (edited by Paul Bailey); 'Friendship' (edited by Shena Mackay); 'Journeys' (edited by Charles Nicholl); 'Marriage' (edited by Elizabeth Jane Howard)

Here's a neat publishing idea - a line-up of six chunky little anthologies, focused on different topics and each with its own nicely idiosyncratic editor. It's a piece of book-making, of course, but all anthologies are book-making and the greatest of them are part of the literary heritage. These may not be quite that, but they are a classy product which - hardback, at pounds 4.99 a throw - should walk off those display counters alongside the cash-desk that are the bookshop equivalent of the supermarket sweetie stack. All credit also to the designer: delectable jackets each with an arresting flower photograph in vivid colour.

So what's inside? Well, the anticipated mix of prose and poetry, with contributing editors going for very different weightings. Elspeth Barker's 114 items, mainly poetry, on Loss is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Sheena Mackay's Friendship with 23 pieces, almost entirely prose and including a 25-page extract from a Brigid Brophy novel. Two opposite reading experiences here: one for the dip and browse, and the other for immersion in extended extracts.

Mainly, though, the editors favour range, variety, changes of key and of mood - though it is instructive to note how often the same names crop up. Nabokov and Sir Walter Raleigh get into three collections; Dickens too (well, he would, wouldn't he?); Shakespeare gets the grand slam, with multiple entries in several. Otherwise it is a combination of the familiar with the provocative or esoteric: a satisfactory anthology rule of thumb. Given that these are the literary equivalent of miniature bottles of spirits, it is difficult to quarrel about ommissions. More a question of the overall flavour. Snack or feast?

Charles Nicholl's Journeys is a succulent little banquet, and he serves up the most memorable introduction, too, addressing himself thoughtfully to the origins of the word itself. His "obvious" choices are exactly the right ones - Conrad, Raleigh, Flaubert in Egypt, Wordsworth, Johnson. But then he pulls out of the hat Paulette Jiles's "Night Flight to Attiwapiscat" - a gem of a poem about an aircraft landing on one engine. Edith Wharton's delicious anecdote about Henry James's lack of any sense of direction is not exactly arcane but an inspired inclusion; the same goes for that lovely Patrick Kavanagh poem "On Raglan Road". All in all, this was the collection that most absorbed me - quirky and illuminating, like listening in to disembodied voices.

But there were discoveries and illuminations in almost all. One grumble: no attributions with individual pieces, so that you have to hunt in the acknowledgements at the back and if nothing surfaces there you have no way of pursuing the subject. But, as anthologies, these should perfectly fulfil the chief value of the form - to whet the appetite. Press into the hands of the young, those whose reading is unadventurous, and anyone else for that matter.

Dent, pounds 4.99 each

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

    £26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn