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This review is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

TALES OF TUBS Poets' Corner, edited by Elizabeth Longford (Chapmans) £15.00
The Literary Companion to Sex, collected by Fiona Pitt-Kethley (Sinclair-Stevenson) £18.00
From Bed to Verse, compiled by Martin Seymour-Smith (Souvenir Press) £14.99
Grandchildren of Albion, edited by Michael Horovitz (New Departures/Airlift Book Company) £9.99
Forest and Vale and High Blue Hill, selected by Johnny Coppin (Windrush) £12.99
The Cream of the Troubadour Coffee House, edited by David Stuart Ryan (Kozmik) £10.95

When I was a bookseller I invented the helpful acronym TUB to denote the Totally Useless Books invariably offered by publisher's reps in the autumn and as invariably stocked by me because they did so well at Christmas. The most characteristic TUB would combine a well-known name with a mildly appropriate place or subject - Harold Wilson's Merseyside, say, or The Richard Adams Book of Rabbits - but any suitably pointless anthology could qualify. Here are some contenders.

Poets' Corner collects 'prose and poetry by those commemorated at Westminster Abbey', a perfectly honourable intention though surely only serviceable as a souvenir of the place: Elizabeth Longford acknowledges as much when she writes of creating 'an atmosphere that was observably related to the great building of which Poets' Corner is a part.' Her book, however, is perversely plain, without so much as a frontispiece by way of illustration; the texts are minced into flavourless morsels (six lines from 'The Ancient Mariner', fifteen from 'Tintern Abbey'); and the biographical notes catch the tourist-guide's ingratiating informality all too exactly (T.S. or Tom Eliot, as he was known … ').

The Pitt-Kethley and Seymour-Smith books are variations on an expedient theme. There's something quaintly dated about such coyly nudging enterprises, but the worst that can be said of either is that it's a waste of shelf-space: both are mildly entertaining, with distinct qualities. The Literary Companion is extensive and elegantly produced, includes prose as well as verse, and is ...


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