Saturday, November 11, 2006

Words and Pictures

I didn't take any photos today, but I did scan this:

It's to illustrate a Wikipedia article called List of fictional books‎. A fictional book is a book referred to inside a fictional work, a book that (usually) doesn't really exist. I say "usually" because sometimes an author creates the book after the fact - but the fact remains that it's a fictitious book by a fictional character.

In my graphic above, C.S. Lewis postulates a number of amusing titles for books owned by Mr. Tumnus the faun in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. That's one of the things I love about fictional books. Much of the time, they have great, funny, intriguing titles.

early e-book edition of H2G2Heck, a lot of the humor in the books of Douglas Adams comes from fictional books, from the text of the fictional Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself to the "philosophical blockbusters" of Oolon Colluphid:
  • Where God Went Wrong
  • Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes
  • Who Is This God Person Anyway?
  • Well That About Wraps It Up for God
There are other purposes for fictional books besides just making jokes. Jorge Luis Borges did all sorts of interesting things with fictional books, building whole stories around them, such as the one about a man who rewrites Don Quixote word by word, ending up with exactly the same text as Cervantes - and a book some critics consider superior to the original. Some day I'll read that story. Tolkien uses fictional books to establish the entire history of Middle Earth. Ben Aaronovitch quotes from fictional books at the beginning of each chapter of his novelization of Remembrance of the Daleks, using them as background and context for the story. Kurt Vonnegut attributes lots of book titles to his author character Kilgore Trout, thus establishing Trout's character as a prolific, eccentric, not-terribly successful writer. And so it goes.

And from time to time, people ask me about a book called The Horn of Joy by Matthew Maddox, a book mentioned in A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle. The Horn of Joy is a crucial plot element in the novel, a book Charles Wallace needs to know more about in order to save the world. L'Engle gave it so much verisimilitude that readers sometimes wonder whether The Horn of Joy is a real book. It isn't.

I must go read five chapters of a real book now and go to bed. I've got a Confirmation class in the morning. I was already confirmed as a Roman Catholic 36 years ago, but I'm going to be "received" as an Episcopalian. But first I have to read John 13 through 17. Good night!


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1 comment:

Becky said...

I had something pithy and entertaining to say... but by the time I got this window open, it was gone from my head. I think I watched too much SpongeBob yesterday. Or maybe it's lack of sleep.