Composition No. 1 by Marc Saporta was the first-ever do-it-yourself or interactive novel. It was published in French in 1962, and an English translation followed a year later. The novel came in a box, as a set of looseleaf pages. Readers were instructed to "shuffle them like a deck of cards" before reading, so that chance would decide the order of events in the narrative.
image source: Newsweek - Oct 28, 1963
In 2011, Visual Editions came out with an elegantly boxed new edition of the work (available on Amazon). As well as an iPad version of it that automatically shuffles the pages.
The story is a flimsy wisp of a thing, really no more than a jumble of fragments. The setting is Paris during the German occupation. The central character is little glimpsed and never named. He has a mistress called Dagmar, a depressed wife (I think) called Marianne, and a young German au pair whom he rapes during the course of the novel, before being injured in a serious car accident.
Coe noted that the British Library had two copies of the original novel, "both, I'm sorry to say, diligently bound by over-zealous librarians (though at least each copy has the pages bound in a different order)."
This historical fiction book follows the real history of Cromwell's head through 300 years of posthumous journeys across England (1661-1960), all told from the head's perspective. Imagined anecdotes complement the true historical notes, which include many real historical characters and events, such as the rise of Spiritualism, phrenology, the Elephant Man, surgeon John Hunter, and a lot more.
Not only is it the first memoir of an embalmed head, but it is also, I believe, the first book to come with a theme song. It was written and performed by singer/songwriter/pianist Stephie Coplan, whose song, “Hey Oliver Cromwell!” is now available on iTunes and Spotify, and here on Soundcloud [below].
The cover was fully illustrated by Brooklyn artist Vi Luong.
Paul has decided to embrace the new "work for free" business model of the 21st Century and is giving away one of his books. So get it while you can! It's available as a download either from Barnes and Noble or Amazon (and Amazon UK).
You can read more details about the book and exactly why he's giving it away over at his other blog, The Inferior4.
Chasing the Queen of Sassi
A science fiction story set in one of the oldest cities in the world.
After his wife's death, Rupert decides to change his life and start your journey: he wants to see Matera again, and ends up loving it so much that he decides to move there. But the city is mysterious: who is the beautiful Daeria Bruno that appears and disappears without a trace? And how will the cucibocca's curse affect his life? In a dizzying series of time travels, Rupert will reveal legendary secrets, being at the center of a timeless story.
Back in 1950, Columbia University Press polled hundreds of editors, writers, booksellers, librarians, literary critics, and general readers in order to produce a list of the 10 most boring books among the great classics. The winners were:
Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan
Don Quixote, Cervantes
Silas Marner, Eliot
Life of Samuel Johnson, Boswell
Faerie Queene, Spenser
Paradise Lost, Milton
Moby Dick, Melville
Such lists are always entirely subjective. For instance, I would question how anyone could produce such a list and not include anything from French literature. Take Remembrance of Things Past. That has to be up there among the great snoozers of all time.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.