Books: Two Serious Comic Writers

A PHILIP ROTH READER Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 483 pages; $17.50

STANLEY ELKIN'S GREATEST HITS Dutton; 290 pages; $10.95

Considering the number of books issued in the U.S. (roughly 40,000 per year), some weird coincidences are bound to occur. Here is one of them. Almost simultaneously, two different publishers are releasing anthologies of past work by two living, still productive authors. Such recycling is uncommon in hard-cover publishing, although paperbacks and mass entertainment in general have thrived on it for years. On TV, reruns increasingly perpetuate the forgettable. Record companies expect people to pay...

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