You Always Need A Good Anthology

“You always need a good Anthology,” my English 210 professor said at the beginning of my spring 2014 semester at Eastern Kentucky University, justifying his decision for the assigned book for the course. I borrowed a friend’s copy; she had taken the class before me. Throughout the semester I read the assigned texts, took notes in class, took the tests, got an A. I gave the book back. I transferred to The University of Louisville for the Fall 2014 semester. I have two English classes, and inevitably two different anthologies to purchase, because “you always need a good anthology.”

“This is a really good book about literature,” my English 300 professor promised all nine of us who were still in the class. Just what I’ve always wanted! A really good book about literature! I wonder how many stories in it I’ve already read? It turns out, not very many. Anyway, overjoyed with the thought of spending ninety dollars on yet another book, I went to another English class, a creative writing class. This one was a bit different…

“I don’t want to assign books until we’ve had a class and I’ve met you all and learned a little about you. Every book you buy for this class I’ll want you to buy for life, not class,” my Creative Writing professor told us. A week later, he assigned us six books, one of them an anthology titled Telling Stories by Joyce Carol Oates. Creative writing students need “good models” to look at to help with learning to write. “It should be self motivation,” he said.

My creative writing professor’s words continued to echo through my thoughts. “Self motivation. For life.” The same words were even bellowing from my memory of the mouth of my English 300 professor, even though he didn’t actually say it. The book orders for the classes were put in late, so the bookstore had to buy all new copies. I spent $151.75 on my two English books, to own forever, “for life.”


I’ve decided, whether it’s a good idea or a terrible idea, to make myself read one of them, The Norton Introduction to Literature (Shorter 11th Edition) by Kelly J. Mays, completely, word for word, page by page, story for story. It’s almost 2000 pages of literary theory jargon and stories that are supposedly widely used in literary-theory studies and college English students across the United States. I’m convinced it’s no worse than reading The Lord of the Rings, all of the appendices at the end of a Return of the King, and throwing The Hobbit in the mix as well. Besides, it was an expensive anthology.

I’m mainly doing this for my own pleasure and satisfaction. I have no idea if it will even be possible to complete before the semester is over, but I’m going to go ahead and set that goal anyway. I suppose I will let you all know how this goes…

By Eric Shay Howard

Eric Shay Howard lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He's the author of the fiction collection, Crushes, and is a literary editor. He also works at a law firm and is writing his second book. He's a graduate student in the Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA in Creative Writing program at Eastern Kentucky University.

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