Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Best Of...

I recently reviewed a book for The Danforth Review (you can read my review here). The book was an anthology of the best Canadian short stories of 2006. I have to admit that I do tend to like such collections, because an anthology is a convenient way of getting an overview of the kind of writing happening in a particular place (or at a particular time, or by a particular group of people). Rather than having to track down individual stories in translation by Israeli authors or contemporary writers working in Spanish or works by gay men writing in English or whatever, it’s done for me.

But you have to wonder what you are missing by reading such a book – what is the bias of the editor (or the editorial staff)? What style of writing is preferred and why? Which topics are featured? What does the publisher want to show about a certain group and why? Is the writing really the number one priority, or is the audience being considered? For example, are readers of translated works looking to get their opinions about a specific ethnic group confirmed, and is the publisher/editor aware of this and therefore choosing stories with an eye towards confirming (or even working against) those stereotypes? Are the translators given instructions about how to translate?

So while I will keep enjoying anthologies, I do try to be conscious of all the hidden decisions that go into creating them.

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