Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Page 253: Real literature > Genre fiction

The author standing under Washington Square Arch in Manhattan. Readers of The Billionth Monkey will understand why. Photo by K. Kurowski.
On page 253 of The Billionth Monkey we find references to lauded writers of literary fiction. These include:
  • Philip Roth, author of Goodbye, Columbus (1959) and Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) [not to be confused with novelist Veronica Roth, who wrote the Divergent trilogy…although since the author’s first name isn’t specified, you could read it that way if you really wanted to]; 
  • Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History (1992) and the Pulitzer prize-winning The Goldfinch (2014); 
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, whose debut novel House of Leaves (2000) enjoys a cult following for its visual or “signiotic” writing; 
  • and Thomas Pynchon, the reclusive MacArthur fellow and author of the celebrated novel Gravity’s Rainbow (1973).
Thanks to my friend Robert, I have a signed copy of Tartt's The Goldfinch (2014).
King, Rowling, or Martin refer to popular genre fiction writers Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and George R. R. Martin.

We also find references to the opening lines of classic novels:

“It was a dark and stormy night” are the opening words to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s purple prose novel Paul Clifford (1830). The full sentence has been both praised and derided to such an extent that an annual contest for the “worst opening sentence” is named after him. For the curious, here’s the full sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

“Call me Ishmael” is the opening line from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), ranked by the American Book Review as the best opening line of any novel.

Finally, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) opens with the idiosyncratic words, “riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”

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