Friday, June 06, 2008

Dreaming of the Imaginary Library

1 My initial list of books that only exist within novels featured one, Sebastian Knight's The Prismatic Bezel, for which we even have a review in hand. In Vladimir Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Sebastian Knight's brother explains that the book only received one review, a five-and-a-half-line notice in a Sunday paper:
The Prismatic Bezel is apparently a first novel and as such ought not to be judged as severely as (So-and-So's book mentioned previously). Its fun seemed to me obscure and its obscurities funny, but possibly there exists a kind of fiction the niceties of which will always elude me. However, for the benefit of readers who like that sort of stuff I may add that Mr. Knight is as good at splitting hairs as he is at splitting infinitives.

2 In a comment to the original post about imaginary books, MomVee from Watering Place said that she has always wanted to read The Horn of Joy, by Matthew Maddox, which is featured in Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Off the top of my head, the one that I'd most like to read is Borage and Hellebore, the critical biographical study of Robert Burton written just after World War II by Nick Jenkins, narrator of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Or possibly the mysterious The Book of Three, from which Dallben draws his often troubling knowledge of forthcoming events in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain--though I have a bad feeling that it would turn out to be some stultifying mix of Nostradamusy vagueness and Tolkienien genealogical portentuousness.

And what about you folks?

3 The night after I wrote the post about the imaginary library, I dreamed that I was rereading Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark, in the pages of which I encountered a book I'd failed to note in my post: Ghost Whim, by Robin Anne Powter.

According to Nabokov's narrator in my dream version of Laughter in the Dark, Ghost Whim is a cultural history of dreaming . . . but before I could learn what would happen if I read a nonexistent cultural history of dreaming inside an actual novel inside a dream, I woke up. But now I really want to read that book!

4 This final item has nothing to do with an imagined book, but I can't resist adding it--my excuse is that it ties in to the discussion of Nabokov because it might have been triggered by a conversation Ed Park and I had last night about the ape that is discussed at the end of Lolita. It's another dream, this one from a brief doze on the bus on the way home today:
I was at the zoo, watching a gorilla very close-up through the bars of his cage. He gave me a quizzical look, tugged at his earlobe, then pointed at my earlobes while mouthing the word, "Earring?" I stared for a second, then remembered that I was wearing a big, gold pirate-style hoop in each ear.
Going all the way back to vaudeville days . . . that had to be the gorilla my dreams, right?

And that's all for tonight, because I have no choice but to go spend the rest of the evening reading Roberto Bolano. I'm 200 pages into The Savage Detectives and it's proving ridiculously difficult to put down.


  1. How about The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the alternate history book within Dick's alternate history book, The Man from High Castle?

  2. Brilliant, Michael. I can't even quite imagine what the experience of reading that would be.