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20 Even Stranger and More Wonderful Books
April 8, 2011 11:54 AM   Subscribe

20 Even Stranger and More Wonderful Books.

Lists of strange books are easy to come by, but most tend to be strange-weird or maybe strange-historical. The FPP list seems different, strange books you actually might want to read.
posted by storybored (57 comments total) 119 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Service Unavailable." Unfortunate.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:56 AM on April 8, 2011


Service Unavailable -- looks like it's been borked before the first comment. Hoping it's only me, here's a Google cache.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:56 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


And now it's back. Strange, indeed!
posted by filthy light thief at 11:57 AM on April 8, 2011


...Wizard of Earthsea?
posted by IjonTichy at 11:58 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


...which is to say: I read those books as a kid, and they're great, but what's strange about them?
posted by IjonTichy at 11:58 AM on April 8, 2011


Wayback Machine (February)
posted by stbalbach at 12:02 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language

I love this book so much I don't even care they called it strange. Like 10% of all conversations I have end with me begging the person to read this book. It's fundamental to the human experience!
posted by DU at 12:05 PM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here's his

"20 Strange and Wonderful Books" which seems available. The other, "20 Even Stranger Books", linked by OP, may or may not be.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:05 PM on April 8, 2011


I want all of these books. I think I may buy "A Void" for my wife's bday.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:07 PM on April 8, 2011


Thank you. Just what I need.
posted by JanetLand at 12:11 PM on April 8, 2011


I don't pretend to understand the organization or purpose of this list, but I read Le Ton beau de Marot three or four years ago and a week doesn't go by that I remember something I originally saw there.
posted by theodolite at 12:13 PM on April 8, 2011


I was gonna say I hope you can do weirder than that and then link to Herbert Read's The Green Child (with prefatory remarks by Kenneth Rexroth!) but as it turns out The Green Child was actually named on the list that Celsius1414 posted so I'm just going to excerpt the first paragraph here—
The assassination of President Olivero, which took place in the autumn of 1861, was for the world at large one of those innumerable incidents of a violent nature which characterise the politics of the South American continent. For twenty-four hours it loomed large in the headlines of the newspapers; but beyond an intimation, the next day, that General Iturbide had formed a provisional government with the full approval of the military party, the event had no further reverberations in the outer world. President Olivero, who had arranged his own assassination, made his way in a leisurely fashion to Europe. On the way he allowed his beard to grow.
—and call it a day.
posted by Iridic at 12:13 PM on April 8, 2011


don't remember
posted by theodolite at 12:14 PM on April 8, 2011


Naked Lunch? The Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy? Nick Bantock's Griffin & Sabine series?
posted by rifflesby at 12:15 PM on April 8, 2011




Oh man, an Anecdoted Typography of Chance is an incredible - and an incredibly difficult to find - book. I remember back in the day doing a lot of research on Fluxus and coming across references to this work all over the place.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:19 PM on April 8, 2011


I'm a vry big fan of Gorgs Prc.
posted by Bromius at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think I may buy "A Void" for my wife's bday.

You should. 'A Void' is a great book. Also, 'Life, a User's Manual' by the same author is wonderful.
posted by Dr-Baa at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2011


In case the list disappears again, here it is. The page has short descriptors that make the list more interesting than as presented below, so you should still check out the link (if it's still viable).

1. An Anecdoted Typography of Chance (Wikipedia), by Daniel Spoerri and friends

2. Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language (Wikipedia), by Douglas Hofstadter

3. A Void (Google Books preview), by Georges Perec

4. Mornings Like This : Found Poems (Amazon.com reviews), by Annie Dillard

5. Fields for President (Reason.com article/review), by W.C. Fields

6. Diary of a Country Parson (Google Books preview), by James Woodeforde

7. The Singing Creek Where The Willows Grow (book review), by Opal Whiteley

8. The Witches of Karres (Wikipedia), by James H. Schmitz

9. Gilbert : A Comedy of Manners (NY Times review), by Judith Martin

10. A Voyage to Arcturus (Google books preview), by David R. Lindsay

11. Vessel of Wrath: The Life and Times of Carrie Nation (Amazon.com reviews), by Robert Lewis Taylor

12. History of My Life (Google Books preview), by (Giacomo) Casanova

13. Christmas Crackers, by John Julius Norwich

14. The Journal of Albion Moonlight (Google Books preview), by Kenneth Patchen

15. A Story Like the Wind (Google Books preview), by Laurens van Der Post

16. Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook (Google Books view of New York Times Book Review article), by John Thorne with Matt Lewis Thorne

17. Wizard of Earthsea (Google Books preview), by Ursula K. Le Guin

18. Running After Antelope (Google Books preview), by Scott Carrier

19. Sinbad and Me (nostalgic review), by Kin Platt

20. High Bonnet - A Novel of Epicurean Adventures (Google Books preview), by Idwal Jones
posted by filthy light thief at 12:41 PM on April 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


For lovers of strange books, Locus Solus has recently been reprinted in English.
A prominent scientist and inventor, Martial Canterel, has invited a group of colleagues to visit the park of his country estate, Locus Solus. As the group tours the estate, Canterel shows them inventions of ever-increasing complexity and strangeness. Again, exposition is invariably followed by explanation, the cold hysteria of the former giving way to the innumerable ramifications of the latter. After an aerial pile driver which is constructing a mosaic of teeth and a huge glass diamond filled with water in which float a dancing girl, a hairless cat, and the preserved head of Danton, we come to the central and longest passage: a description of eight curious tableaux vivants taking place inside an enormous glass cage. We learn that the actors are actually dead people whom Canterel has revived with 'resurrectine,' a fluid of his invention which if injected into a fresh corpse causes it continually to act out the most important incident of its life.
posted by byanyothername at 12:47 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read five of these and parts of a sixth )Casanova's memoirs(.

First list of favorite books I've seen which broke the loneliness of liking The Witches of Karres-- which I'm not sure I can really justify, actually, or explain.
posted by jamjam at 12:48 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's been awhile since I've read Le Ton Beau, but I don't remember it being strange at all. The description here makes it seem like it just has 88 translations of a poem, but that's not it at all. The poem and the translations are a starting point in a meditation on the limitations of language and the nature of love and loss. Really a marvelous, beautiful, sad book and one that I recommend to literate friends all the time.
posted by dave78981 at 12:53 PM on April 8, 2011


The Easter Bunny sat on Terranfazer Plaza, sipping his drink, which was a concoction of vodka and cranberry juice which Emma, the bartender's girl, had fetched him from the plaza owner's home. Everyone else around him was drinking ale.
-The Red Robins, by Kenneth Koch
In Caion the man who had the longest beard was elected king, and all the men who had beards organized and measured their bears [sic]; the one who had the longest would be king for one year, and would also represent the lodge. The first winner was Habey, he was king in 756. They thought God wanted the bearded men to be king, and all those who had no beards had to work as slaves. This lasted for a long time.
-The Oldest History of the World Discovered by Occult Science in Detroit, Michigan, by Benny Evangelist
"OK," inBOIL said. "This is what it's all about. You don't know what's really going on with iDEATH. The tigers knew more about iDEATH than you know. You killed all the tigers and burned the last one in here.

"That was all wrong. The tigers should never have been killed. The tigers were the true meaning of iDEATH. Without the tigers there could be no iDEATH, and you killed the tigers and so iDEATH went away, and you've lived here like a bunch of clucks ever since. I'm going to bring back iDEATH. We're all going to bring back iDEATH. My gang here and me. I've been thinking about it for years and now we're going to do it. iDEATH will be again."
-In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan
posted by Iridic at 12:59 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that so many people here have read Le Ton Beau--I haven't come across anyone in "real life" who has. I took a class called "Writing Structured Poetry" from Hofstadter around the time that the book came out, which was taught around the same lines as the book, and it really got me thinking about the tension between structure and free expression in the arts. I was also surprised, since I'd never tried structured writing before, how much time and effort it requires--I think I spent six or seven hours on my version of Ma Mignonne, the poem that's repeatedly "translated" in Le Ton Beau.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2011


Oh man, an Anecdoted Typography of Chance is an incredible - and an incredibly difficult to find - book. I remember back in the day doing a lot of research on Fluxus and coming across references to this work all over the place.

I found this book last year in the gift shop at MoMA PS1 in Queens. My sister was visiting and she really likes PS1, so I made the trip out there from Brooklyn with her. I started getting bored and was milling about the tiny gift shop when I noticed that book. The guy working at the gift shop mentioned that it was a great book and not published in the US. He said either he or someone else picked up some copies in the UK and brought them back. Don't know how true any of that is, but I do know it is the only time I have seen that book anywhere. I bought the last copy, unless they restocked.
posted by Falconetti at 1:10 PM on April 8, 2011


A Voyage to Arcturus certainly is strange. I'm very happy to see that it's available for free for the Kindle. Downloaded! Haven't read it in years. Looking forward be reacquainting myself with it.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Le Ton Beau de Marot is such a great, great book. The first time I read it, I went about for weeks trying to get everyone I knew to do a translation of the poem. Really just annoyed the shit out of them.

A Void is an interesting oulipian experiment; but it didn't hold together entirely for me; I suspect it might work better in French. At any rate, I much prefer Life, a User's Manual; which is an even more interesting experiment, and a damn good read.
posted by steambadger at 1:17 PM on April 8, 2011


The Christmas Crackers aren't strange at all. They're commonplace books (in fact each yearly pamphlet is subtitled "a commonplace selection"), and sometimes (but not always) the contents are strange. (Sometimes the contents include email forwards! Sometimes it's very good poetry.) They're great, but they're not strange.
posted by kenko at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2011


Looking at the first list of 20 strange books, I'm pleased and surprised to see Henry Kuttner's wonderful Robots Have No Tails! I don't think it's such a strange book -- almost anything by, say, Stanislaw Lem would be a far more viable candidate for strangeness -- but it certainly is a good read.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:31 PM on April 8, 2011


I definitely would have put A Perfect Vacuum by Lem on here: 16 reviews of imaginary books, including his own book.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:41 PM on April 8, 2011


I've never heard of that Opal book, though I grew up with Opal: The Journal of a Understanding Heart. All I remember about it is something vague about Oregon, stuff about animals being slaughtered (a horse?). Years later, I'm fairly certain it was revealed to be a hoax.

Time to go RESEARCH!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:20 PM on April 8, 2011


Why is Dillard's volume of found poems strange? And even odder, to my mind, why would anyone consider van Der Post strange? And it's the Kalahari Desert...
posted by bardophile at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2011


The Google cache of '20 Strange and Wonderful books' which was done before the content of this post is here.
posted by Rashomon at 2:28 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grateful for a few new ideas, but it seems a mixed list, with a strange sense of 'strange', which sort of undermines my confidence. I agree about Wizard of Earthsea - well known mainstream fantasy? Didn't they even make a film (though not a good one)?

I don't think A Void works as a novel: It's remarkable that someone did it, but frankly they didn't do it brilliantly. I agree with steambadger that Life, a User's Manual is a much better read, and well worth trying.
posted by Segundus at 2:32 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found the first list (the one Celsius1414 links to) about ten years ago. Printed the page out and took it to the local indie bookshop to see how many they could track down. Bought Flatland; Labyrinths; Godel, Escher, Bach; The Green Child; The Compleat Enchanter; The Pooh Perplex; and The Man Who Folded Himself. I had already heard of Titus Groan.

I owe this list a lot.
posted by Paragon at 2:55 PM on April 8, 2011


I never imagined I'd come across a list that contained both Le Ton beau de Marot and The Witches of Karres on it. Strange and wonderful, indeed.
posted by pts at 4:32 PM on April 8, 2011


Heh. I've read two of the books on his list but remember nothing about them. The books mentioned in this thread sound a lot stranger.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:34 PM on April 8, 2011


The Journal of Albion Moonlight was ahead of its time, and kind of heartbreaking, and kind of a complete wreck, and I think it's my favorite book. Another of those "no really, just read the first paragraph" ones:
MAY 2 · The angel lay in a little thicket. It had no need of love; there was nothing anywhere in the world could startle it—we can lie here with the angel if we like; it couldn't have hurt much when they slit its throat.
posted by droob at 4:46 PM on April 8, 2011


Thanks FilLightthief for adding the full list here. I didn't link the original "first" list from the website for purely subjective reasons, I didn't find the list all that strange/wonderful. But I'm glad it got pulled into the mix because clearly other people do.

The reason I found the FPP list is because of #19: Sinbad and Me. I read this when I was a kid and forgot all about it until very recently. I was having a devil of a time trying to remember the title - I could picture the cover and then one day I woke up and boom, it came back to me. I hurried over to Amazon and sadly found it is out of print. It'd be cool to read it again. Especially now that I see it on a list in such good company.
posted by storybored at 5:34 PM on April 8, 2011


A Voyage to Arcturus sounds awesome
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:02 PM on April 8, 2011


bradth27, I want every single one of those Awful Library Books. Every. Single. One.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:23 PM on April 8, 2011


I've read The Journal of Albion Moonlight every other year for the last decade. Gorgeous, difficult, all over the place, but something I'd trade 95% of my collection for, if only a few copies remained.
posted by Hesychia at 6:25 PM on April 8, 2011


And here's me having just taken about 300 books to the secondhand store in an attempt to reduce clutter. Luckily only two jumped out of this list for me: The Witches Of Karres and Diary Of A Country Parson.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:23 PM on April 8, 2011


A Voyage to Arcturus sounds awesome

It is! A little H.G. Wells, a little William Blake, and some absolutely original business with extraterrestrial sensory manipulation.

I don't know where our list-maker is getting "Calvinist mysticism" from, though. Lindsay adhered to a kind of ascetic Gnosticism. The novel is (more) incomprehensible outside of that context.

As Guy_Inamonkeysuit mentioned, Arcturus is a free download from Project Gutenberg. If it leaves you wanting more, The Haunted Woman, Lindsay's pseudo-Gothic followup, is available at Gutenberg's Australian counterpart. (Avoid The Flight to Lucifer, Harold Bloom's spiritual sequel to Arcturus. It will not repay your curiosity.)
posted by Iridic at 7:48 PM on April 8, 2011


A list of strange books would not be complete with...oh, several dozen other books I've read, but let me just mention a couple I've read in the last five years: Lanark and Notable American Women. Lanark is a "classic strange book," and readable in scifi/fantasy terms. Notable American Women is strange in every way, but especially stylistically. I got The Museum of Lost Wonder in the mail last week. That one is strange. I could go on, but it's bedtime and I have to get my wife on a plane to Japan very early Saturday.
posted by kozad at 8:43 PM on April 8, 2011


The strangest text I've ever read is The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. I can't remember how I got into the history of Rosicrucianism and alchemy. It's worth reading just for the strangeness factor.

I've got to second (third?) A Voyage to Arcturus, as well. It's a Gnostic allegory but you don't have to understand Gnosticism to enjoy it, and it will definitely stick with you.
posted by Nixy at 1:42 AM on April 9, 2011


Also worth mentioning, even though it's more widely known: The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton.
posted by Nixy at 1:44 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose the "strangest" book I have read recently is Karel Čapek's War With The Newts. I heartily recommend it.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:54 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't remember how I got into the history of Rosicrucianism and alchemy.

Lemme guess - Umberto Eco? Specifically Foucault's Pendulum?
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:04 AM on April 9, 2011


The guy working at the gift shop mentioned that it was a great book and not published in the US.

Well, sort of. It was published by Atlas Press in the UK, but for a while Exact Change acted as their agent here and you could get most of the Atlas list from them. I got my copy at a very good discount when they sold off a bunch of backstock 10 years or so ago, along with several other Atlas Arkhives (a list of strange and wonderful books all by themselves).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:17 AM on April 9, 2011


The spelling errors in the descriptions are distracting, and make me wonder about the quality of the list.
posted by rhombus at 5:32 AM on April 9, 2011


" I light a cigarette every time I want to touch someone", from The Journal Of Albion Moonlight . I thought that these words were perfectly descriptive of my own teenage angst for a few years, until 25 years later it occurred to me that what I was really doing was putting a space between myself and others when I lit a cigarette. Then I re-read the book and saw that what Patchen was saying was political rather than poetic. If I could wade through it again, another 25 years down the line, I might have a third opinion. Liked The Witches Of Karres but didn't realize it was at all odd. Also, italics seem to be reversed in this comment. Or more coffee is required.
posted by Hobgoblin at 5:54 AM on April 9, 2011


Surprised so few suggestions for yet more of these in the commentary. I mean to say, if ever there was a chance to show off, this would have to be it.

A no doubt obvious example to many here would be Huysmann's Against Nature, surely well worth two cents.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:40 AM on April 9, 2011


Okay: I was recently blown away by Rene Daumal's Mount Analogue.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:46 AM on April 9, 2011


I definitely would have put A Perfect Vacuum by Lem on here: 16 reviews of imaginary books, including his own book.

Or Borges. Also.
posted by ersatz at 8:02 AM on April 9, 2011


The thing about Titus Groan is... well, if you're lucky enough to have an edition with Peake's own illustrations of the characters, you're golden. If they don't draw you in (no pun) nothing will. *


*He illustrated Alice in Wonderland, too, but I've only seen one or two of those.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:13 AM on April 9, 2011


I definitely would have put A Perfect Vacuum by Lem on here: 16 reviews of imaginary books, including his own book.

After reading the first couple selections, I fully expected that book to be on the list. Very surprised to see no Lem at all.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2011


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