I love books that don’t exist.
You know what they are: characters in novels read them. They’re imaginary books that exist only in the universe that’s created in the novel you’re currently reading. A character, looking across a river, might have in her hand, The Gulf: When to Get Divorced. Another character might find a book in a mysterious, dimly-lit curio shop. He opens the book . . . and that’s the last anyone sees of him. The book’s title: Don’t Open This Book.
They push the plot along, or indicate theme, or are just there because the author felt like adding a little something.
My novel-in-rewrite-purgatory, The Enigma Club, is a 3/4 adventure, 1/4 comedy story about the era of pulp adventure, and I’ve filled it with mentions of imaginary books that reflect both the golden age of adventure, but also the antiquated post-Victorian era that spawned the pulps. They’d publish any kind of crap back then.
Safari to Hoboken
Where the Dung Beetles Dwell
Haunted Biergartens (Holzer & Grolsch)
Don’t You Believe It! (rare copy of Mr. Ripley’s first book — quite the unsuccessful)
Who Discovered the Mogo?
Without a Nightlight in the Jungle (by our own Dr. Dickie Denton)
Enchanted Poems and Assorted Vowels
Palace of a Thousand Toothless Harem Girls
The Banana — America’s Friend!
One of the first notes I made in 1996 when I started the novel was about the ape-man who was the Enigma Club’s benefactor, as well as a focal point to reel in readers’ disbelief. He was a Tarzan clone who was not as dumb as George of the Jungle . . . but was close. Tarzan had adventures. My jungle lord has misadventures. He began life as Ka-Gor, but that name was not only unfunny, but also very close — too close — to Ki-Gor, a real pulp jungle lord of the ’40s. So, after much serious deliberation, I switched Ka-Gor to . . .
Scrotar the Pendulous.
And, to make this world of the Enigma Club as real as possible, I’ve come up with about 700 titles — and synopses — of Scrotar’s adventures, as published in every other issue of the Enigma Club All-Adventure Magazine from 1914 to 1953. My lovely wife and muse, Maria, helped me come up with some of them, but I think she still prefers Ka-Gor over Scrotar. She’s nuts.
Scrotar Aboard the Ghost Yacht
Scrotar and the Scrotarettes
Scrotar and the Trojans
Wanted: Scrotar . . . Dead or Alive
Scrotar and the Odd-Tasting Brownies
Judge, Jury and Scrotar
Sing a Song of Scrotar
Moo Goo Gai Scrotar
“Die, Scrotar, Die!”
Smell the Spoor of Scrotar
The Challenge of Scrotar
The Algebra Master covets Scrotar’s Golden Slide Rule. Best line: “‘Pi,’ the mathematician shouted. ‘Not pie!’”
Scrotar the Challenged
Scrotar follows a faint trail to Korocca, where a poisonous snake cult throws him into their diabolical Maze of Monochromatic Sand.
Scrotar the Magnanimous
Scrotar throws a banquet for homeless jungle animals and gets a prize . . . from the Volcano Death-King!
The reason I explain all this to you is that books that don’t exist are really fun, and the New York Times has a cool article online that talks all about them. Go there . . . and keep reading . . .
. . . in the name of Scrotar!
One thought on “Tales within Tales within Tales…”
Thanks for delving into this odd corner of the library — I've always wondered whether some titles mentioned are “real” or not. I thought that two books praised by that quirky and inventive John Fowles in his own works were clever fakes (“The Book of Ebenezeer LePage” and “Le Grand Meaulnes,” because of the odd titles, but no; and they're both well worth reading. Ya never know…