Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What I'm Not Reading Lately

More Nonexistent Books

Since I haven't been able to get into a book for weeks, I thought I'd add to my list of favorite imaginary books, beginning with some enyclopedias.

ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA by Hari Seldon, et al. A comprehensive work compiling all human knowledge, intended to shorten the new dark age that will follow the collapse of the galactic empire. Written on the remote planet Terminus with the permission of imperial authorities, who couldn’t care less. (Isaac Asimov, Foundation.)

ENCYCLOPAEDIA GALACTICA. Either the UK edition of Seldon’s Encyclopedia, or a work of similar ambition. Now largely ignored in favor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Douglas Adams)

THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams, et al. Don’t panic and always bring a towel; you know the drill.

THE GREAT BOOK OF RECORDS by invisible aerial spirits. Marvelous book owned by the sorceress Glinda the Good of Oz. All events that transpire anywhere in the world are automatically recorded in this book, though details tend to be sketchy. The records do not organize themselves, so it is necessary to wade through an ocean of text to find something specific. The Book of Records anticipated the internet by 80 years, and the Encyclopedia Galactica by more than 12,000. Greatly influenced the writers of Microsoft documentation. (L. Frank Baum)

A FIRST ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF TLÖN. (Memphis, Tennessee; copyright 1824-1914) Published in 40 volumes over a period of 90 years, this encyclopedia was commissioned by American millionaire Ezra Buckley and limited to 300 copies. Any surviving editions are in private collections only. Over half of the sets perished with the RMS Lusitania in 1915, thanks to a radio miscommunication; the German submarine U-20 was supposed to waylay the ship and capture the encyclopedias, not sink them. Tlön is an imaginary planet, so the encyclopedia’s contents are entirely fictional. A genuine set is bound in yellow leather with a silk frontispiece stamped “ORBIS TERTIUS”. A spurious volume IX was sold to an unknown collector over the Internet, but exposed as a forgery by Glenn Horowitz Booksellers. (Jorge Luis Borges)

EARLY PLATES ON THE MORPHOLOGY OF INSECTS OF THE AXA DELTA, by Sean Kernan. This book purported to contain fragments of the Tlön encyclopedias, but has been exposed as a hoax.

AZATHOTH AND OTHER HORRORS, by Edward Pickman Derby (1908). Book of weird lyrical poetry, in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep. Derby was a child prodigy who was influenced by “the notorious Baudelairean poet Justin Geoffrey”. How a Baudelairean poet makes himself notorious is, of course, unexplained.

NECROTELECOMNICON, or LIBER PAGINARUM FULVARUM (“The Book of Yellow Pages”) by Achmed the Mad. Terry Pratchett’s homage to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.

THE MAN WHO WAS OCTOBER, by G.K. Chesterton. An imaginary sequel to the actual book The Man Who Was Thursday. (Neil Gaiman, Sandman)

THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHER KINGS, by Waltham Kitteredge. A study of the American northeastern upper crust, with special attention to inbreeding. Kitteredge coined the term “un-neurotic courage”, in case you’re wondering who coined that. (Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan)

AN OPEN INVITATION TO THE CHYMICAL WEDDING, BEING A MODEST PROLOGOMENON TO A FULLER REVELATION OF THE HERMETIC MYSTERY, by Louisa Agnew. Alchemy meets British middle-class sexual frustration. (Lindsay Clarke, The Chymical Wedding)

THE CAT IT WAS WHO DIED, by Ariadne Oliver. Mystery novel featuring the Finnish detective Sven Hjerson, who is based on Oliver’s real-non-life friend Hercule Poirot. (Agatha Christie)

ON THE TYPEWRITER AND ITS RELATION TO CRIME by Sherlock Holmes. The Alger Hiss Library in Washington, DC, had a rare American edition of this book, but it was loaned to CBS News and never returned.


THE WISDOM OF THE GREAT KAMIKAZE PILOTS, Anonymous. Notable only for the illustrations by Walt Disney. (Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow)

THE PHILOSOPHY OF TIME TRAVEL by Roberta Sparrow, aka "Grandma Death" (1944). Actually a philosophy of temporary, unstable universes. (Donnie Darko)

BETWEEN TIMID AND TIMBUKTU by Beatrice Rumsfoord. Book of poetry by another reclusive rich female weirdo, which is also all about time - "time" being between "timid" and "Timbuktu". (Kurt Vonnegut)

THE THING WITH THREE SOULS. Ace Science Fiction paperback version of the New Testament. Sequel to Master of Chaos. (Terry Carr)