In Considering Garlands
, six innovative nonfiction editors discuss the nature of editing & the art of anthologizing.
AN EXCERPT FROM DAVID LAZAR’S INTRODUCTION
“We are all indebted to Meleager of Gadara, who gave us the Garland, which stands for us as the beginning of the anthology, the anthologia, a floral collection, or in Latin, “florilegium.” Meleager connected flora as emblems to various poets and epigrammatists, thus the name of this anthological root of ours. Only parts of the original version of the Garland now survive, subsumed into the larger and later Anthologi Graeca.
“But we can imagine that the urge to collect, to preserve, to arrange precedes even this. There is something floral, and something culinary in the urge to choose and arrange. Because there is the desire to recreate an experience in the anthology – just as there is in a meal, or garden. In all three cases, too, the impulse to share is a generous one, and also bound up in a reasonable degree of ego. As with the chef, the anthologist says, or rather, must assert, “I know what is good, or what is interesting.” And yes, the generous part, is “I’d like you to know it, too.” Perhaps that is confirmation. And sometimes, one might think, it is the desire for influence, though heaven knows that kind of hubris seems bound to have its second parachute fail.”
Robert Atwan is the series editor of The Best American Essays, the annual he launched in 1986. The editor of numerous anthologies, he has published on a wide variety of subjects, such as dreams in ancient literature, early photography, Shakespeare, poetry, literary nonfiction and the cultural history of American advertising.
Joy Castro is the author of two memoirs (The Truth Book and Island of Bones) and two literary thrillers set in post-Katrina New Orleans (Hell or High Water and Nearer Home). She edited the collection Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family, and her collection of short fiction How Winter Began is forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press. She teaches creative writing, literature and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she directs the Institute for Ethnic Studies.
John D’Agata is the author of several books, including About a Mountain, The Lifespan of a Fact and Halls of Fame, as well as editor of the anthologies The Next American Essay, The Lost Origins of the Essay, and a third and final anthology in his history of the essay series, the forthcoming The Trials of the American Essay. He teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa, where he directs the Nonfiction Writing Program.
Patricia Foster is the author of the memoir All the Lost Girls (PEN/Jerard Fund Award), and a book of essays, Just beneath My Skin. She is the editor of Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul and Sister to Sister, as well as co-editor of The Healing Circle (with Mary Swander) and Understanding the Essay (with Jeff Porter). She is a professor in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
David Lazar ’s books include essays (Occasional Desire, The Body of Brooklyn), prose poetry (Powder Town, Who’s Afraid of Helen of Troy—forthcoming from Etruscan Press), nonfiction anthologies (Truth in Nonfiction, Essaying the Essay and After Montaigne—forthcoming from University of Georgia Press) and interview collections (Michael Powell: Interviews and Conversations with M. F. K. Fisher). He has lectured widely on nonfiction and editing, founded the PhD program in nonfiction writing at Ohio University, and directed the creation of the MFA program in nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches. He is the founding editor of Hotel Amerika.
Phillip Lopate ’s most recent books are Two Marriages, Notes on Sontag, At the End of the Day: Selected Poems, Portrait Inside My Head and To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. He has edited the following anthologies: The Art of the Personal Essay, Writing New York, Journal of a Living Experiment and American Movie Critics, along with a best-essaysof-the-year series, The Anchor Essay Annual, from 1997–1999. He is a Professor of Writing at Columbia University, where he directs the Graduate Nonfiction Program.
Jill Talbot is the author of Loaded: Women and Addiction, co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non) Fictions Come Together and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction.