May I refine your three very good wishes a tiny bit?
First, I agree wholeheartedly about the value of introducing each work in a book like this; I would even make my introductions go further than yours. I remember, in sixth grade, reading a book of short stories—The Best Short Stories in the World, or some such hyperbolically-titled collection—that included things like "The Lottery," "The Most Dangerous Game," and "The Lady or the Tiger?" It was a thrilling selection, enhanced by the prefaces before each story telling you not only what to expect, but also what was interesting and special about it. In my perfect anthology, the prefaces would include small bits of information about the author and the genre of writing, in order to put the work in its proper place. If you did it right, it wouldn't have to be too school-marmish. Some of the things Bloom has included in his book—the poem by Anonymous that begins, "Here we come a piping/ First in spring, and then in May," which leaves me cold, heartless as I am—would be much aided by a few words about when they were written, and why, and in what general context, so that poetry non-appreciators like me could get the extra help we need.
Bloom's selections from the authors sometimes perplexed me, too. You rightly identify the
But of course he's arguing, as he does in his other anthologies, that these works will provide a solid grounding in literature for people who want to go on to read other things in an educated way. Which is absolutely true—I appreciate getting some Swinburne in there, for instance, because I wouldn't get it otherwise—but that's also where his unconventionality falls away and becomes conventional. With some exceptions, like the Mark Twain piece, the works he chooses are the works that someone growing up in
I loved the selections in your dream book, although I could quibble gently with a few of them. From The Phantom Tollbooth, also one of my all-time favorites, I think I would choose the scene where
And now I am going to go to Amazon and start ordering some of the things you mention that somehow passed me by. And let me leave you with one of my favorite children's books of all time, a book that was recently put back into print after a long hiatus, due as far as I can tell to the loud clamoring on the Internet for its re-release. It's called The Silver Crown, and it's by Robert C. O'Brien, the same person who wrote Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and it's breathtaking.
All best to you,