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Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature
ISBN 0062700278 / 9780062700278 / 0-06-270027-8
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What does it mean to have the voice of a stentor? Where is John o'Groat's House? Ever heard of a beast epic, or the Jindyworobak Movement? And what is the origin of the word "abracadabra"?
The answers lie in this delicious reference that anyone interested in humility should have; just glimpsing it on the shelf reminds one of how very much there is that one does not know. The thousands of entries in Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia cover anything and nearly everything having to do with literature. The book includes biographies of authors, summaries of books and plays, depictions of characters and mythological figures, explications of literary terms and movements, and, well, a whole bunch of other irresistible stuff that is somewhat quirky and utterly engrossing. (For the curious: a stentor's voice is a very loud voice; John o'Groat's House is considered to be the most northerly point in Great Britain; in a beast epic, "the central characters are animals and the tone is often satirical"; the Jindyworobak Movement is "a school of Australian poets demanding fidelity to Australian environment and the employment of aboriginal themes"; and abracadabra is a cabalistic charm.) [via]