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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Panel soon in Adelaide - anthologising as a critical act

I'm on a panel very soon (within an hour) called "Is anthologising a critical act?" Hmm, that's a slightly oddly-worded topic, but I've been thinking a lot lately about the process of putting together an anthology. It doesn't seem right to me to talk about it as a "critical" act, exactly. It's a creative act of a kind, but in some ways more like creating a small business from scratch than like writing your own book. The overall effort in putting together an original anthology such as 50 Voices of Disbelief is, however, certainly comparable to that of writing a book of similar length.

The small business side of it is shown by (for example) the sheer number of emails it generates - to and from potential authors, the actual authors, various people at the publishing house, etc., and between the editors. My email folder for the book contains well over 2000 emails, going on 3000. I also suspect, by comparing other editorial work I've done, that the amount of work does not increase in a neat linear way with the size of an anthology: the bigger the book the more complex the task becomes, so a book twice as big requires a lot more than twice as much work.

2 comments:

Blake Stacey said...

"In a modest, silent way, by arranging books on shelves, we ply the critic's art."

— Jorge Luis Borges

I've now and then been tempted to edit an anthology: a collection of anti-creationist arguments, or a set of invited essays on "textbook cardboard", or something. Since I got anthologized myself (in Open Lab 2008), it just seems the logical next step. Now you tell me there's actual work involved — but it still sounds like fun.

Brian said...

Totally off-topic, but Russell, did you know your philosophical arguments were sketchy?

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/06/10/coyne-replies-i-reply-i-think-were-getting-somewhere/#comment-19299

It made me chuckle. Sorry, I get a kick of the commenter's arguments from authority, pitting Piglucci (sp?) and Shermer against you and Coyne.