who has read the works of Herbert Quain?

I particularly love this Irish writer’s 1936 work “April March”, a novel with nine different beginnings which fork back in time…

Actually I haven’t read anything by him and I doubt you have either.

Have you ever had an idea for an amazing novel, but known you would never bother to write it all out in 80,000+ words? Not only that but actually writing it would be beyond your current technical ability?

Well why not pretend the book has already been written, by someone else and write a review of it? It would be “fair use” to include an extract wouldn’t it?

Herbert Quain was one of several fictional authors of fictional books covered by Borges in Ficciones a short anthology which includes among other works, scholarly reviews of made up books.

The book that the excellent “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” currently airing on the BBC is adapted from, includes a wealth (in fact I would go so far as to say an embarrassment) of footnotes referencing a number of fictional books that help to ground the magical England of Susannah Clarke in something like reality.

Who of us, who lived through the eighties hasn’t rooted through second hand bookshops looking for a battered much read and annotated “Fly Fishing” by JR Hartley.

I’ve lost count of the number of Kilgore Trout novels I falsely recall reading thanks to a love of Kurt Vonnegut and a former love of Fifties pulp scifi.

The ever reliable Wikipedia has a list of fictional books from writing, films, and music here.

When I was about fifteen, I hated writing non-fiction stuff in English, which was what we mostly did, our teacher had little time for fiction. I got my best marks writing a massive essay on the history and care of hippopotamuses in Nineteenth Century France. Now this was before the internet had really caught on and fact checking my work would have been really difficult, I created an entire list of false references to imaginary books and told my teacher I had spent a weekend in the library researching all this, she believed it or at least pretended to.

Imaginary stories give us a tantalizing glimpse of a world that might have been, they remind me of sitting on my mum’s knee in front of her dressing table mirror where she would tell stories about the world that existed just round the corner of the reflection of her bedroom door.

They’re also from a more practical point of view a way for writers to get those tiny sparkling ideas out there in another guise…

A good challenge for a writing group might be to write a review of an imaginary book.

Now I’m off to read “The God of the Labyrinth”.

Edited to add – and by coincidence I’ve just seen a link to this contest to write the worst opening to an imaginary novel you can.

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About mat

amateurish writer and full time uniony/community person - spends most online time on twitter @matdanaher
This entry was posted in Bits and Pieces, Mat Danaher and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to who has read the works of Herbert Quain?

  1. mat says:

    Reblogged this on .

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