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ELT 38:4 1995 Bowker's Reader's Adviser The Reader's Adviser: The Best in Reference Works, British Literature and American Literature, I. David Scott Kastan and Emory Elliott, eds. 14th ed. New Providence: R. R. Bowker, 1994. xxxvii + 1472 pp. $110.00 WHEN THIS REVIEWER first pulled The Reader's Adviser from its cardboard box, he was instantly struck by the enormity of the task confronting him. His nine-year-old daughter, who jostled his elbow and helped him strip away the tape and packing, openly hoping against hope that the box contained something besides a book for once, was similarly impressed and, upon volunteering her opinion—That book is huge, Dad!"—was quickly dispatched to fetch a ruler. By her calculations, it can be reported that this book is almost 3 inches thick. Then, having exhausted the nine-year-old's literary interests, her seven-year-old sister was persuaded to retrieve a bathroom scale. This óliminutive assistant determined that the book weighs approximately 5l/2 pounds, and then inadvertently contributed another fact when the cumbersome tome tumbled out of her hands—"Sorry, Daddy"—and the binding was badly shaken, an ominous sign that such an unwieldy production, meant to be handled by hundreds, is an almost certain candidate for early repair or rebinding. Somewhat under a cloud, the seven-year-old drifted off, leaving me alone. As I flipped the pages, pausing here and there to scan the entries for favorite or familiar authors, it became apparent that The Reader's Adviser is a sort of condensed version of the CBEL or DLB, a reference work aimed mainly at undergraduates. Given the passage of time since my own undergraduate years, a seventeen-year-old stepdaughter, a prep school senior home for the holidays, was pressed into service, too. She played the game with gusto, filled a full page with tiny notes, and eagerly discussed her thoughts about the book. She was, I am happy to report, most impressed with every aspect of the book—its organization, inclusiveness, ease of use, and so forth—everything, in short, that is most obvious about the book. Interestingly, she was particularly attracted by the book's triple indexes—name, title, and subject—and the fact that book titles listed under a given author oftentimes included the publisher's name and price. These features had escaped me, possibly because I came of age before such things as subject indexes were quite so common, or because I am rarely pressed these days to produce a five-page paper on a certain theme by Monday, and almost certainly because I am of an age when, having attained a certain degree of 570 BOOK REVIEWS prosperity, price is only a rare impediment to a book's acquisition. It is no small compliment to report that my stepdaughter begged to be given the book when it had served its immediate purpose, and it is no less a compliment, either, to say that she shall have her wish. Left to my own devices, I sampled generous portions of the book over a two-month period and, while I can fully sustain the lisping compliments of my offspring and dependents, their words are not final. The book has merits and flaws, and deserves a more careful description. Despite its almost Victorian title, The Reader's Adviser is a marvelously organized dictionary or encyclopedia of British and American literature. And what it evidently attempts to do—which is to furnish the maximum amount of information about an author in the minimum amount of time and with the minimum amount of effort—it does well. The present volume is the first of a series, succeeding volumes to cover world literature, the social sciences, philosophy and religion, the sciences , with the final volume being a comprehensive index to the whole set. The Reader's Adviser is divided into three parts, the first part devoted to reference works, and the second and third parts to British and American literature from beginning to end. Each part is divided into chapters, selected around a special subject, period, genre, or author. Each chapter is introduced by a brief essay, followed by a list of...


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