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THE BOOKSHELF

THE OXFORD COMPANION TO AMERICAN LITERATURE. New York: Oxford University Press. 888 pages. $5.00.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

This big, fat, comfortable book will doubtless become a component part of almost every educated man's library. Not only for the specialist in American literature, but also for the general reader, this volume will fill a long-felt need. It is a book to keep on the table beside you--to dip in whenever you come across some obscure reference, name, character, or book in our literature.

Not intended as a criticism of our writing, but only as an encyclopedic dictionary for it, the "Oxford Companion to American Literature" is the result of the gargantuan labors of one man--James D. Hart. And although he spent five years on the subject, the book is by no means stolid or ponderous. It contains many relatively obscure and unusual facts which make the book intriguing to while away a few odd minutes as well as to answer some question which arises during other reading. The following entry is typical of many:

"Bartlett, John (1820-1905), owner of the University Book Store at Cambridge, made his shop a meeting place for Harvard professors and students. 'Ask John Bartlett' became the customary saying when anyone was searching for a book or quotation, and he justified his reputation in his famous 'Familiar Quotations,' first published in 1855."

Vital statistics on the book: The volume is 888 pages long, and weighs three and three-quarters pounds. It covers American literature from "Mourt's Relation" (1662) to "For Whom the Bell Tolls," from the "American Magazine" (1741) to PM. Walt Whitman gets more space than anyone else (two full pages), closely followed by Henry James, Thoreau, Emerson, and Poe. Nicholas Murray Butler, who usually gets more space in "Who's Who" than any other man, gets only 17 lines here. And the height of degradation for Mr. Butler is that he is followed by "Butler, Rhett, character in 'Gone With the Wind' (q.v.)."

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