Hey, hey, guess what day it is!
No, not that. The other thing. April Fools’ Day, the one day of the year when the Internet tries to deceive you more often than usual!
Not here at Eleventh Stack, though. We’re dedicated to the truth, and nothing but the truth, no matter what day it is. This is, of course, because truth is usually wackier and more interesting than anything we could try to trick you with. For your edification and delight, here are some books with titles that sound bogus, but are 100% real, and available for checkout through the Library.
Eating People is Wrong, Malcolm Bradbury. Being the English department chair isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Exhibit A: one year in the life of Stuart Treece, a professor at a small British university. You’ll cackle–or wince–as the hapless Treece bumbles his way through the school year, making social blunders and questionable moral decisions. A fine example of the academic comic of manners, in the same vein as Kingsley Amis and David Lodge.
Eeeee eee eeee, Tao Lin. Fresh out of college and at loose ends, Andrew spends his time working at a pizza shop, driving around with his ex-girlfriend, ruminating on the meaning of life, and–occasionally–working on some short stories about “people who are doomed.” Between episodes of navel-gazing, strange things happen. Random celebrity cameos, the occasional bear, and highly intelligent dolphins who could speak to humans, but choose not to, dance in and out of the narrative. Think of it as a somewhat snootier version of the Clerks universe randomly interrupted by acid flashbacks. Ideal for anyone excited about experimental fiction, the daily life of the North American hipster, or dolphins.
The Tetherballs of Bougainville, Mark Leyner. If you like satire, black humor, and endless discussions of literary/film culture, this is the Godiva truffle of a novel you didn’t know you were searching for. Leyner’s protagonist is…a 13-year-old Mark Leyner, who has just won $250,000,000 a year for life in a screenwriting contest. The problem is, the screenplay is due in 24 hours, and he hasn’t actually written it yet. Wait, what? It gets weirder. Luckily for Leyner, his dad is about to survive his execution by lethal injection due to a very high drug tolerance. And onward and downward and around we go, into a world where Leyner and his dad are ghostwriters for some of America’s most popular novelists. Add in the use of three different narrative styles, and this novel is a head-scratcher only a dedicated lit maven could love. Includes one incredibly intense sexual situation, for those of you who are leery of (or fond of) such things.
Theatre of Fish, John Gimlette. If you like travel memoirs, you might enjoy Gimlette’s tale of retracing his great-grandfather’s footsteps across the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. Eliot Curwen spent the summer of 1893 tending the sick of the region, and his frank account of the inhabitants’ difficult life inspired Gimlette to travel there himself and see what it’s like in the present day. Gimlette’s approach was simple: arrive in a town, head for the bar, and find the area’s most talkative people (no mean feat with this crew) to spin him some yarns. As a result, bear-fighting goats, nearly impenetrable dialects, tall tales, bizarre pasts and strange presents await the curious reader who can appreciate the absurdity of life in a region where, despite changes, much has remained the same.
I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems By Cats, Francesco Marciuliano. April is National Poetry Month, so why not start it off on the right foot with this collection of the finest feline verse in America (and, quite possibly, the planet)? If you’ve ever wondered what your kitty is really thinking about you, her/his psyche will be laid bare in poems such as “Kneel Before Me” and “This is My Chair.” Marciuliano, who is also the current writer of “Sally Forth,” includes all the common cat foibles, such as knocking over Christmas trees and dipping their paws in whatever your were drinking, organized into four categories: family, work, play, and existence. Dog lovers, fret not: the companion volume, I Could Chew on This, ensures that puppy poets also get their day in the sun.
Believe it or not, there is an actual prize for weird book titles, the Bookseller/Diagram Prize sponsored by–who else?–The Bookseller (UK). Some of the winning choices strike me as unfair and unkind, given that they actually make sense in the context of what the author was trying to do (this mostly happens with non-fiction). But even so, there are definitely a lot of titles out there that fall into “what is this I don’t even” territory.
What’s the weirdest book title you’ve ever seen? Did it make sense in some way, or was it a complete mystery to you? I’d love to hear your choices in the comments section…no fooling.