Great Books collection grows by 6,000 pages

Books & Authors

November 25, 1990|By James H. Bready

All is flux, and that 1952 monument to the human intellect, "Great Books of the Western World," is already altered. The second edition, just out, is six volumes, 74 works and 6,000 pages longer. All is relative, and four of 1952's authors, their greatness paling, have been dropped.

This time, present-century works grace the 60-volume, jTC 130-author roll; also, women's writings. "The tendency is to think of it as a Great Authors list," says Douglas Allanbrook, "and there have been calls to include blacks and additional women, heedless of excellence or its absence in specific works." Mr. Allanbrook, senior tutor and associate dean at St. John's College in Annapolis, served on the six-member editorial board that drew up the 1990 list.

What (not who) is new? "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "Little Dorrit," "Emma," "The Great Gatsby," "Middlemarch," "A Rose for Emily," "Uncle Vanya," "Beyond Good and Evil," "To the Lighthouse," "Relativity: The Special and General Theory," "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," "Animal Farm," for a few. What's out? Works by Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne and Jean-Baptiste Fourier.

Mr. Allanbrook helped the "Institutes" of John Calvin make the list, and rejoices that a greater Hegel ("Phenomenology of Mind") has replaced a lesser ("Philosophy of History"). The board, which convened in New York City two summers ago, included Jacques Barzun, Norman Cousins, John Kenneth Galbraith, Heinz R. Pagels and a Briton, Lord Quinton. It tickled Mr. Allanbrook, then 67, to be the youngest. Mortimer J. Adler, the very active editor-in-chief, by now nears 88.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. publishes the 37,000-page "Great Books," at $1,399 to $1,599 a set.

Colby Rodowsky's just-published "Dog Days" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $12.95) is her 11th children's book. For kids ages 7 to 11, with Kathleen Collins Howell illustrations, it concerns Sandy, the famous golden retriever next door.

Another essential book for the Baygoer's shelf is "Harvesting th Chesapeake: Tools and Traditions" (Tidewater Publishers, $28.95). The author, Larry S. Chowning, is a Virginian and field editor for the magazine National Fisherman. Crab snoods, oyster mops and nips, sculling paddles, peeler pounds, eel bobs and gigs -- "Harvesting" even shows how to build a log canoe. Outmoded and disappearing, some of these forms of waterman gear; but here safely recorded. And are Marylanders aware that Benjamin F. Lewis, patent holder on the crab pot, was a Virginian?

A generation ago, Franklin Street Presbyterian Church was better known to Baltimoreans as "Dr. Kirk's church." Its pastor from 1901 to his death in 1953 was Harris E. Kirk, Tennessean, pulpit orator and avid book-reader.

The man who lived in the adjoining manse, frequented bookstores, owned 47 Baskerville Press titles and steeped himself in secular as well as religious classics, would be pleased with "The Scent of Eternity: A Life of Harris Elliott Kirk of Baltimore" (Mercer University, $31.95). Donald G.Miller, retired seminary president, is author of this 700-page biography and tribute.

"A Walking Tour of Historic & Renaissance Baltimore" (PublishinCorp., $9.95), by Donald T. Fritz, starts with Otterbein Church, heads up Charles Street to Mount Vernon Place, veers south on Liberty to Pratt, then east on Pratt to Albemarle. This latest of the downtown guides highlights 80 points of interest along its three-mile way.

An 1861 letter in which Turner Ashby proposes to take out a dam on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Western Maryland is included in Baltimore Book Co.'s next auction, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at Towson Quality Inn. Photographic books and prints, and Civil War material -- Ashby, a famous raider under Stonewall Jackson, was killed at Harrisonburg in 1862 -- are the theme.

A title leaps out at the unwary browser from Johns Hopkins University Press's fall list: "Writer's Block."

That horror, that paralysis of mind and soul. . . . You sit there, staring out the window, and no words flow; you regard the screen, and the mess that is all you have to show so far; you curse, delete, and think of the other things you could be doing. . . . How obnoxious of Zachary Leader (a faculty member of London's Roehampton Institute) to have finished his 313-page, $26.95 book.

Not a mass-market product, this is a scholarly search of psychology and literary history for clues to the internal causes of writer's block -- a term only 40 years old. Mr. Leader's objective is neither anecdotes nor therapy, except that his temperate, reasoned analysis does calm you down.

OK. It was a dark and stormy night . . .

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