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The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Quotations

Kemp, Peter
Year Published:  2003   First Published:  1997
Pages:  490pp   Price:  $48   ISBN:  0-19-866281-5

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Peter Kemp is currently Fiction Editor of the Sunday Times and a former academic. He leads a team of seven in the sourcing and culling of literary quotes. The current edition has about 4000 quotations, all arranged by subject in one alphabetical sequence blending topics and authors, with a chronological arrangement within each subject. Over 900 additions are new. There has been a general modernizing with contemporary references to Harry Potter and to Inspector Morse. More quotes have been added from the Colonies (North America and Australia). New themes since 1997 include Solitude, Interruption, Omission, Graffiti, and Epitaphs. Cross-references are included, e.g., Mystery see Crime and Mystery; Humour and Comedy see also Irony, Wit and Satire. The source materials range from classical literature through crime novels through journalism. Themes cover the literary life, individual writers, morality, death, characters, words, ballads, science fiction. It is still an eclectic work, a book to dip into when looking for the bon mot.

Some interesting facts: most people are only in once, although Ian McEwan has 11 quotes, Milton has 24, and Shakespeare and Shaw a lot more.

What I don't like about this resource: one didn't need to be a literary type to be in here. For example, there is a quote from Marilyn Monroe on men and poetry which gives her life dates and the date the quote was made but not where it was made (diary? article? said to who? where? why?). Other quotes are equally vague.

What I do like about this resource: there is an extensive keyword index and an author index referring to page and quote number.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 90.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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