The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (John Clute

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (John Clute John Grant)
Publisher: Orbit, UK hc | ISBN: 0312198698 | 280 pages | 1997 | File type: PDF | 95 mb

I had coveted this book for quite some time before I ordered my copy. Aside from being a longtime and irredeemable fantasy geek, I am also an English teacher at a small independent school, and our reference library has a copy. This fact has enabled me to waste many happy free periods rifling through the _Encyclopedia_ instead of, say, grading papers or thinking deep, serious thoughts about the state of pedagogy in America. But before you write me off as a disgrace to my profession, hear me out:_The Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ is a remarkable book, and any time I have spent with it in lieu of more mundane tasks is time very well spent indeed. I can even justify this frivolous perusal academically, because what really makes the _Encyclopedia_ a great resource isn't so much its exhaustive listing of authors or titles (much of which information is available elsewhere anyway), but the fact that Clute et al. have managed to accomplish nothing less than a rigorous, consistent, and phenomenally well cross-referenced taxonomy and analytical vocabulary for fantasy. I know, I know, that sounds awfully dry, but it isn't.I'm a word junkie, so I love learning apt new terms for things, especially if those nameless concepts have gone begging for far too long. When Clute coins the term "thinning" to describe any fantasy world that, over time, loses its magic [Middle-earth, anyone?], you cannot help (assuming you're an aficionado of the genre) but say to yourself, "Aha! Now I know what to call it!" Furthermore, the fact that this vocabulary is employed consistently throughout the _Encyclopedia_ allows for thematic and formal juxtapositions of specific works, combinations and comparisons that might not occur even to the serious fantasy buff. Who needs hypertext when you've got such meticulous cross-indexing?I recently received an gift certificate from thoughtful in-laws, and decided that even though I have access to a copy at school, I had to have an _Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ at home, both for reference while reading/writing and for couch-sprawl browsing. I splurged and bought the $75.00 hardback. I had a hunch it would get a lot of use, and I wanted it to last. Money very well spent, as far as I'm concerned, and if you're a fantasy partisan, a literary theory wonk, or just someone who gets off on thousands of pages of really, really small type, you'll probably agree.Like the companion volume, "The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction," "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy" tries to include everything within its thick volume. Finally, readers can find the name of every single book ever published by their favorite authors. This is not the kind of book one reads from cover-to-cover; the sheer staggering amount of detail alone would prevent any useful retention. Rather, it is the perfect playing ground for encyclopedia tag: pick a page, read a topic, then follow the bouncing references until you get hopelessly, wonderfully entangled in ideas and authors you've never encountered before! My only minor complaints are the too-brief biographies for the authors, and the occasional over-opinionated discussion of an author's works. But even then, the book sparks curiosity by leading a reader to want to know more about an author or idea. An excellent gift for readers who constantly have a fantasy novel in their hands (and for whom you're afraid to buy a book for fear they've already read it).Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards-and deserving-as every other reviewer has stated, this work is indispensable for anyone interested in fantasy fiction, whether scholar or casual reader. Comprehensive would be an understatement, as the authors have collected almost every reference, author or subject pertaining to the genre in one weighty volume, ranging from the Dolorous Stroke of Arthurian Romance to the influence of opera or film upon the fantastic imagination. Writers both influential and otherwise are included, and cogent examinations made into the conventions, tropes and history of this aspect of speculative fiction. True, as often happens with all efforts to compile an encyclopedic reference, this work reflects a certain cultural and Euro American bias, with certain, perhaps crossover, authors from the third world absent, as well as the burden imposed by the rapid passage of time, that demands constant revision, newer (at least for European and American audiences) and significant authors, such as the Australian writer, Sara Douglass, missing mention. Hopefully a new and updated edition will soon be forthcoming. But these quibbles are petty and unavoidable compared to the monumental accomplishment this volume represents, and I find myself continually referring to its pages for additional background upon authors and thematic elements that catch my interest, often individual entries leading to further study and references, as well as authors whose work I was not previously acquainted with.As varied and vast as the world of fantasy has become in recent years, this work will surely open up new vistas for any reader, as well as firmly root the history, influence and contributions of the genre in the larger perspective and traditions of our literature. The first of its kind, and a worthy addition to the companion volume by the same authors for science fiction, this work is invaluable, one of the most significant works ever published in fantasy, and deserving of a place of prominence on the shelves of anyone interested in fantasy or the writing of fiction.

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