7 May

As noted previously, a novel, novella, or novelette originally published in a periodical but subsequently published on its own is included in our "great books" master list, as compared to the sub-master list of non-monographical works, excerpts, and indeterminate selections. One difficult case is that of Heart of Darkness, originally published in a periodical, then included in an anthology entitled Youth: A Narrative, and Two Other Stories--those two other stories being Heart of Darkness and The End of the Tether. However, for most editions since then, Heart of Darkness has been published on its own, or as the main work in an anthology (Heart of Darkness and Other Tales, Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary, etc.). On the other hand, though it was the lead story in that early collection, 'Youth' remains a non-monographical work, having always since been published as part of story collections. Another example of a potential monograph is John Updike's Rabbit Remembered, so far only been published as part of an anthology; because of its place as the last of the "Rabbit" works, perhaps it will eventually take the form of its own book, in which case the lists in this project that include the "Rabbit" series as a whole would need to be renumbered.

The numbering of items will not be especially important to most users of the Greater Books site. It is meant largely to eliminate over-lapping selections of works within the master list. (For example, several listmakers only choose the second of Locke's Two Treatises of Government, so having those excerpts in the sub-master list eliminates over-lapping between those entries and those who selected the entire book.) A short poem published as a distinct work can count as a book, as does a pamphlet (however one may define that word), or a play. As noted previously, a problem with "great books" lists has been the sloppiness of their creators in not taking these cataloging and indexing issues seriously. Reading plan, or course, and canon are better terms, if only because they do not inaccurately imply that all the entries are books. Still, the creators of such lists often ignore questions of publication and format.

We should note too that the date listed for plays is that of its first performance, or publication--whichever comes first. (Needless to say, for earlier plays, including many of Shakespeare's, the date of first performance is not known.) The only exception to this rule comes with a few Yeats plays (At the Hawk's Well, considered part of The Wild Swans at Coole, and the two plays counted as part of Last Poems and Two Plays: The Death of Cuchulain and Purgatory); this just reflects the relative complexity of Yeats's body of work. A few books consisting mostly of his poetry have been demoted, if you will, to non-monographical status because they also included a play, which was usually later printed on its own or in another collection.Though two listmakers, Bloom and Fadiman, include both Yeats's collected plays and his collected plays, meaning that they indirectly selected the entirety (or nearly all) of those books, for the sake of uniformity with the two listmakers who only include the collected poems (the Telegraph and the Globe and Mail), those books are not included, even in the sub-master list. 

Why? Because, when a collection like Yeats's collected poems is listed, I draw out the monographical works, so as to include them in the master list, but any anthology or non-monographical work or excerpt included in such collections is not listed separately. At least not for now. To make this clearer, though Eudora Welty's collected stories includes all four of her short-story collections, those four are not listed separately because they are not considered monographical works, consisting as they do of stories originally published in periodicals.

This Welty example brings to mind another complicated matter in arranging the master and sub-master list. Because of their relative brevity, generally, poems are both more likely to be originally published in periodicals and to be moved around among an author's books of poems and selected and collected anthologies of those books. Thus, some of the collected poems included end up with quite unwieldy bibliographic notes. More importantly, for now a book consisting of poems previously published, but which is the first publication in book form of most of those poems, counts as a monographical work. This is done, first of all, so that writers who principally write poetry are not under-represented in the master list. Only a few fiction writers focus more on short stories than novels, whereas many poets only write poetry. Secondly, again because of their brevity, poems rarely stand on their own like a short story does. They leave a greater impression as part of a book than in a periodical.

A final note about the differences between the master and sub-master lists.... In determining the number of entries counted in the case of excerpts of monographical works, a short dictum applies: "entry over excerpt." That is, if a listmaker includes two or more selections from a book, those selections constitute a single entry for our purposes, even though in other lists an entry may be a single excerpt from that same book. The reason for this rule is best shown in Clifton Fadiman's listing of certain essays from Montaigne's Essays. Instead of listing each one as an excerpt, leading to a larger number of non-monographical entries, those excerpts constitute a single entry. The problem with this approach comes with the lack of uniformity it will create in the eventual sub-master list of non-monographical works and indeterminate selections. That is, over-lapping will occur, as with the two Montaigne excerpts and the two excerpts of Shakespeare's sonnets.

A major exception to this rule is the Bible. A few listmakers prefer to list several books of the Bible instead of the entire work, appropriate enough given its origins. Each book of the Bible chosen by these listmakers is listed separately. The same exception applies to the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean, both parts of the Book of Rites and both listed by the Guide to Oriental Classics. The same exception would apply in the case of similar entries of parts of other ancient texts, assuming the entry is not two particular excerpts of, say, the Great Learning or the Book of Job.