Wednesday, 1 April 2015

April Fool’s Day: Imaginary Books



For the first three years of Clothes in Books, I did a special blogpost for each April Fool’s Day. In each case, I took an imaginary book, described in a real book, and invented an excerpt – based round a suitable photograph – and then wrote a commentary on my fake book. I enjoyed this immensely.
 
The first book I chose to cannibalize in this way was Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark. The heroine, Fleur Talbot, is out and about in London, scratching a living while trying to get a novel published. It’s called Warrender Chase, and we get whispers of what it’s about throughout the action. I had a particularly fine photograph I wanted to use:


April Fool 1


So I fitted my excerpt to match. Check the entry here to see if you would have known it was fake. Happily, I recently found a book that this picture would fit – Margaret Millar’s 1950s psychodrama, Vanish in an Instant.

This was in the early days of the blog, and the post got some publicity and an unusually large number of views, though I’m not sure many people worked out the point of the fakery.


-----------------------------------


In 2013 I decided to work on one of my Top 10 books of all time: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Cassandra’s father, James Mortmain, is a blocked writer, but the book ends with his finally starting a new work, and that’s what I chose to build on. I know I Capture the Castle as well as I know any book ever, but I still had to re-read it to find out what the title of the book-within-the-book was (and I would challenge other Castle fans to know it): it is called Enigmatism. Actually I also had to check out what the writer’s first name was: in ICTC, Cassandra calls him Father, and his wife Topaz always calls him Mortmain.

Regular blog readers will know that I have a friend who is also a great photographer, and Perry Photography came up with some magnificently unsettling images for this entry:




April Fool 2April Fool 3


I had help from someone with considerable academic expertise, and we invented some cracking literary theory in the notes, and this:
A feminist critic might say: always the male narrator(s), always the female who is other. (Typically, a book with a female narrator simply will not be taken so seriously.) 

Enigmatism’s actually an easy and entertaining read – full of puzzles and jokes and the comic strip sections called Pigeon’s Progress, with the bird Homer leading us through. But it’s almost too easy, and we worry that we’re missing the point, that we’re not clever enough. But today, I think we have got the point.
My consultant also obliged with quotes from the finest literary critic of his generation: Ardnassac Zapot. (True fans of the original book may spot where he came from.)

The fake entry is here. James Mortmain wrote another book, Jacob Wrestling, so be careful if there’s a future blog entry on it.


-----------------------------------

The 2014 April 1st entry was for Wonder Boys by Grady Tripp – a book that shares its title with a work by one of the blog’s favourite writers, Michael Chabon. So perhaps it’s no surprise to find that the hero of the Chabon book is a writer called Grady Tripp who has to produce another novel. He has the opposite problem from writer’s block – he over-produces, and the book is far too long.

Again, I had a photograph I particularly wanted to use:

April Fool 4

--- and the entry gave me an excuse to embed a Bob Dylan video in it. If you watch the (excellent) film version of Wonder Boys – Dylan won an Oscar for best song for it – you can just make out that in their view Grady Tripp’s is writing Mysteries of Pittsburgh, another of Chabon’s books.



So no new fake book this year (and everything in this entry is for real, in its own way), but there are plenty more books-in-books for the future…. and extra suggestions always welcome.

ADDED LATER: There are some great suggestions from readers in the comments below, and Susan D pointed us in the direction of her amazing invisible library of DE Stevenson books. Miss Buncle's Book - how could I not have thought of having a go at creating that?  















20 comments:

  1. Gorgeous - I've only read the first two, but, in general, I love when there is someone writing a book within a book and one can (perhaps?) get a glimpse of the (real) author commenting on the writing process. I wonder if anyone has tried to recreate Agatha Christie's Mrs Oliver's mysteries or if there's no need because of the Christies!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Vicki, and what a brilliant suggestion, yes I would love to read one of her books. I always thought Sven Hjerson was a great name (she anticipated Scandi-crime...).

      Delete
  2. "Imaginary book(s)?" Moira, that's an interesting idea and I can see a lot of work going into it, both real and unreal. I can't think of doing anything of the sort considering all the real unread books at my disposal. As far as my reading goes, April Fool's joke is on me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your response made me laugh Prashant! Perhaps we can have imaginary books that are very short, and that we can miraculously read in a few minutes....

      Delete
  3. How fun - and funny! I've always wanted to read one of Laura Morland's books, from Angela Thirkell's series. And since they're set in Madame Koska's dressmaking establishment, they'd be a natural fit for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, great idea - they would be ideal for faking up. I mentioned Laura's books in this entry http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/high-rising-by-angela-thirkell.html

      Delete
  4. Clever, imaginative and funny, Moira! I think those posts are fantastic. Perhaps if several bloggers got together and published reviews of the same imaginary book, it would take on a life of its own and people everywhere would wonder where they could get a copy...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I love that idea Margot, wouldn't that be a great trick to play....

      Delete
  5. I actually found your blog through the Warrender Chase entry--and I'm so glad I did! Thank you always for your thoughtful posts :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's such a nice thing to hear, Sarah, thank you! A woman after my own heart...

      Delete
    2. I was going to suggest Laura Morland's books, but someone got in before me. Then I thought of Dorothy L Sayers' Harriet Vane, mystery author and Lord Peter Whimsey's beloved. I'd buy her books in a red hot minute!

      Delete
    3. Oh yes, Harriet D Vane, definitely. Murder Twixt Wind and Water, wasn't that the one she was working on? And a character called Wilfred. And I found out recently: she mentions Wilfred, and Lord Peter's mind goes 'scampering after rabbits' - apparently there was a cartoon rabbit called Wilfred at the time.

      Delete
  6. No new book this year. Oh, sadness.

    D. E. Stevenson had several authors in her books, and they wrote a number of books. So of course, I created DES's Invisible Library here....
    http://dalyght.ca/DEStevenson/desinvisible.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's wonderful Susan - I have added your link to the post above. And as I say there, wouldn't Miss Buncle's Book be a perfect choice...

      Delete
  7. I was only just saying to my imaginary friends, I wonder what book Moira will be recommending today.....now I have nothing to report

    ReplyDelete
  8. Had forgotten the Lord Peter rabbit comment, and hadn't connected it, till you mentioned it to Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, which my Dad used to talk about, and here they are - http://screever.org/2012/03/18/pip-squeak-and-wilfred-1938/
    Loving books in books - The Mousetrap was of course taken from the play within a play in Hamlet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can remember, when I first read the book 30+ years ago, desperately trying to parse it, and not at all understanding where rabbits came into it. It was immensely satisfying to decide for myself that I do now know what it means (I am assuming I am right!). Thanks for the link. Interesting that it ran for so long...

      Delete
  9. Maybe you should write a book on faked books. You have such a memory for facts like that. I am envious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great idea Tracy - and I loved the way it turned out I wasn't the only one who was fascinated by books in books....

      Delete