Comprising over 750 entries in a single alphabetical sequence, the Cambridge Handbook of American Literature offers a compact and accessible guide to the major landmarks of American literature from colonial times to the present day. Entries on 500 separate authors, from Henry Adams to Louis Zukofsky, from Cotton Mather to Norman Mailer, give a full account of the subject's literary career. Entries on individual works - on major novels, plays, and volumes of poetry, from Absalom, Absalom! to The Zoo Story, from Moby-Dick to Catch-22, provide publication details and convenient plot summaries. There are entries also on the principal literary magazines past and present, and on literary movements as diverse as Transcendentalism and the Beats. There are helpful guides to further reading and chronological tables of American history and literature. Containing a wealth of authoritative, clearly presented information on the whole range of the American literary heritage, this is an invaluable reference work for the student and general reader alike.
This Handbook seems intended as a less costly alternative to the Oxford Companion to American Literature (Oxford, 1983. 5th ed.). Both books provide concise biographical sketches of major figures, nonjudgmental plot summaries of major works, and commentaries on such related concerns as movements and literary journals. Both have tabular literary and social chronologies. The Handbook, however, has only about 750 entries while the Companion has more like 5000. Generally, the Companion 's entries are more detailed and the Handbook 's are slightly more current. The Handbook has a bibliography; the Companion does not. Only the most comprehensive collections will need both books; the Handbook is a fine choice for libraries not able to pay extra dollars for the Companion 's greater depth of coverage. Peter Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mich.