Friday, October 12, 2012

Constant Curiosity | Hidden Treasures

     Reading a novel, other than for the sheer pleasure of visiting other people and places, often yields treasures (to me, anyway) beyond what the story is ostensibly about.  Recently I read a book about an artist who was painting "cowboy angels" and as he painted, he listened to Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris singing "Return of the Grievous Angel" (on Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels) so nothing would do but I had to hear that song.  Right then.  Pandora and Youtube to the rescue.  

Later the artist listened to Carlos Santana and Yo Yo Ma's duet of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps,"  (sung by Indie.Arie.)  Really lovely, and the vision of the artist at work came to three dimensional life in my mind.  The book I was reading?  Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black, unfortunately only available as an ebook.  Full disclosure:  it's a book that might be considered an 'alternative' romance, so fair warning.

This little adventure got me thinking about my many years as a reference librarian and being asked about books that appeared within books (or were mentioned in movies) and how to find them.  This was before the Internet, so it  involved actual research in books.  One of my favorites concerned the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral" when an inquiring mind called the reference desk to ask about the 'William Holden' poem recited in the film.  Fortunately I had seen the movie the past weekend so I knew it was actually by W.H. Auden: "Funeral Blues."

"Funeral Blues", or "Stop All the Clocks" as the Auden poem is sometimes referred to, is an actual poem, but an author might invent books that exist only in his or her extra-fertile imagination, sometimes as MacGuffins or just to further or enrich the plot and sometimes for just plain entertainment, probably for themselves as much as the reader.  Writing is serious business; who can blame a hard-working writer for wanting to dabble in nonsense now and then?

Some of the authors who seem to be having too much fun are J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter books:  Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit and Men Who Love Dragons Too Much; Lemony Snicket, a possibly (just saying) made-up author, has a wonderful list of
invented books, such as The Big Peruvian Book of Small Peruvian Snakes and Handbook for Advanced Apostrophe Use

One very popular invented book was Dean Koontz's Book of Counted Sorrows, which readers asked librarians and booksellers about all the time.  Koontz himself said he received up to 3,000 letters a year about this 'book.'  Koontz finally published several editions of his made-up book, now out of print and selling for up to $1800.00.

Of course I had to find more about fictional books. I couldn't help but wish that some of the titles listed were actual books, i.e.  How I Scaled the North Face of the Megapurna with a Perfectly Healthy Finger But Everything Else Sprained, Broken or Bitten Off By a Pack of Mad Yaks  as referred to in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series

What would you call your imaginary book?  My current favorite: (a memoir)   The Hazards of Reading in the Bathtub and Other Unlikely Places:  A Sometimes Soggy Adventure Story.

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