Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Least Dangerous Books of All Time

Everybody is upset over this list of dangerous books. I, too, am upset over the omission of The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. I dropped that fifty-pound tome on my crotch once and I assure you it is as dangerous as they come.

Here is a list of books that can do no harm to anybody, because none of them exist:

AL AZIF by Abdul Al-Hazred. [“Al Azif being the word used by the Arabs to designate that nocturnal sound (made by insects) supposed to be the howling of demons.”] Written in Sanaa, Yemen, circa 700 AD. Known also as The Necronomicon, in its three translations from the original Arabic: the Greek translation by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople (950), the Latin translation by the Dominican Olaus Wormius (1228), and the English translation by Elizabethan sorcerer Dr. John Dee (16th Century). Pope Gregory IX banned The Necronomicon in 1232, after the Wormius translation “popularized” it. Most famous quote from the book: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.” [H.P. Lovecraft].

L'APPARITION DE SAINCTE GERTRUDE À UNE NONAIN DE POISSY ESTANT EN MAL D'ENFANT (“The Apparition of Saint Gertrude to a Nun of Poissy, During a Difficult Childbirth”) From the collection of blasphemous books at the Abbey of Saint Victor, in Rabelais’ Pantagruel.

THE APPROACH TO AL-MU'TASIM by Mir Bahadur Ali. (1932) One of many nonexistent books “reviewed” by Jorge Luis Borges. By the same author: The Conversation with the Man Called Al-Mu'tasim.

ARS HONESTE FARTANDI IN SOCIETATE by Marcus Ortuinum. The art of passing gas in public, from the library of the Abbey of Saint Victor (Rabelais, Pantagruel).

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by F. Alexander. The imaginary book from which Anthony Burgess’ actual book takes its title. Alex and his droogs beat the author half to death, and he has it coming: “The attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my sword-pen …”

CLOTHES: THEIR ORIGIN AND INFLUENCE by Diogenes Teufelsdröckh. Imaginary work of Transcendental philosophy, extensively discussed by Thomas Carlyle in Sartor Resartus.

THE CURIOUS EXPERIENCE OF THE PATERSON FAMILY ON THE ISLAND OF UFFA by John H. Watson, MD (late of the British Army Medical Department). Imaginary account of a Sherlock Holmes adventure, mentioned by Conan Doyle in The Five Orange Pips.

DREAMS DON'T MEAN ANYTHING by Richard Tull. Self-explanatory book created by Martin Amis in The Information.

THE DYNAMICS OF AN ASTEROID by Professor James Moriarty. The mathematician and Napoleon of Crime also wrote (or rather, didn’t write) an influential book on the binomial theorem.


MY FRIENDS THE NEWTS by Loretta Peabody. (P.G. Wodehouse)

THE GRASSHOPPER LIES HEAVY by Hawthorne Abendsen. An alternate history novel in which the Allies win World War II, written in an alternate history in which the Allies lost. From Phillip K. Dick’s alternate history The Man in the High Castle.

HANSARD’S GUIDE TO REFRESHING SLEEP, in 19 volumes. By somebody named Hansard, obviously. The 19 false book spines covered up some woodwork in Charles Dickens’ library.

THE KING IN YELLOW, Anonymous. A mysterious two-act play (banned and confiscated in France in 1920) that features in the stories of Robert W. Chambers. “I pray God will curse the writer, as the writer has cursed the world with this beautiful, stupendous creation, terrible in its simplicity, irresistible in its truth -- a world which now trembles before the King in Yellow.”

LESBARE UND LESENSWERTHE BEMERKUNGEN ÜBER DAS LAND UKKBAR IN KLEIN-ASIEN by Johann Valentin Andreä. This imaginary book was created by Jorge Luis Borges. The author was a real person, the Rosicrucian author of Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz (“The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz.”)

THE LORD OF THE SWASTIKA by Adolf Hitler. (1953) Science fiction book written by Adolf Hitler, in Norman Spinrad’s alternate history The Iron Dream. Banned in Germany (Spinrad’s book, not Hitler’s). Also by Adolf Hitler: The Builders of Mars, Savior from Space, and The Twilight of Terra.

MAD TRIST by Sir Lancelot Canning. An account of dragon-slaying by a knight named Ethelred, found in the Usher library in Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the the House of Usher.

MARVELLS OF SCIENCE by Morryster. Imaginary book that is mentioned by H.P. Lovecraft, but created by Ambrose Bierce in The Man and the Snake.

MEMOIRS by the Honorable Galahad Threepwood. Autobiography by the brother of Clarence Threepwood, Lord Emsworth. Created by P.G. Wodehouse.

MONOGRAPH ON POLYPHONIC MOTETS OF LASSUS by Sherlock Holmes. The abso-freaking-lutely last word on the subject. Orlando de Lassus was a 16th Century Catholic composer of masses, hymns, and (of course) motets.

NYMPHS AND THEIR WAYS, Anonymous. Book found on a shelf by the children in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which sounds like it’s not for children.

OLD WORDS AND NAMES IN THE SHIRE by Meriadoc Brandybuck.

PLETHORA: LOST VERSE 1942-2002, by William Coraxe. (London, Oxford University Press, 2002) Imaginary book created by Ronald Flanagan, the winner of an Imaginary Book Review Contest put on by The Modern Word (


THE PNAKOTIC MANUSCRIPTS, by anonymous alien monsters. In H.P. Lovecraft, a history of the Great Race of Yith (you don’t even want to know) written by themselves.


THE PROUSTIAN THEME IN A LETTER FROM KEATS TO BENJAMIN BAILEY by Humbert Humbert. From Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Lolita is boring as hell, but this imaginary book sounds pretty good.

THE SEVEN MINUTES by J.J. Jadway. (Paris, Etoile Press, 171 pages) The most banned book in history, The Seven Minutes purports to describe what women think about during sex. Created by Irving Wallace in the novel of the same name.

THE SEVENTH TRUMPET by some guy I don't remember. This is the title of a book written by a character in a play I wrote once. I don't remember what The Seventh Trumpet was supposed to be about, but it sucked. My play sucked, too.

SOME OBSERVATIONS UPON A SERIES OF KALMUK SKULLS by George Edward Challenger. From Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.

TELEMACHUS SNEEZED by Atlanta Hope. A not-so-subtle parody of Atlas Shrugged, in The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. In Homer’s Odyssey (a real book) Telemachus actually does sneeze.

THAUMATURGICAL PRODIGIES IN THE NEW-ENGLISH CANAAN (1794) by the Reverend Ward Phillips, Head Librarian of Miskatonic University, Arkham, Massachusetts. Being an imaginary book, it was not as popular as Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World.

THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM by Emmanuel Goldstein - the Goldstein created by George Orwell in 1984. “…a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there.”

UNAUSSPRECHLICHEN KULTEN (“Unspeakable Cults”) by Friedrich von Junzt. Book of unspeakable stuff frequently mentioned by H.P. Lovecraft, but created by Robert E. Howard. Apparently written in very bad German.

UNDER THE HOOD by Hollis Mason. Autobiography of the masked crimefighter Nite Owl, full of trashy gossip and absurd self-rationalizations. From Alan Moore’s graphic novel The Watchmen.


DE VERMIIS MYSTERIIS (“Mysteries of the Worm”) by Ludvig Prinn. Imaginary Latin grimoire associated with H.P. Lovecraft, but actually created by Robert Bloch.

THE WORM OF MIDNIGHT by Edgar Allen Poe. Also created by Robert Bloch, in The Man Who Collected Poe.