Sunday, September 8, 2002

Andrew Calcutt & Richard Shephard Cult Fiction: A Reader's Guide (1998) - Not really much of a guide: It's filled with errors; most moderately well-read people will only find a few authors they haven't known before; and it's almost completely lifeless. Apparently some of the big names (Joyce, Kafka, Stephen King) are included for the sole reason that most browsers will likely have heard about them; you could make a case for cult status of such writers but Calcutt & Shephard don't even try. In fact, their entire idea of "cult" is a little odd. The idea by nature is ambiguous but they seem to go with anything they can claim is edgy (whether true or not is another question; that "edgy" is the status quo yet another). The number of inarguable cult writers in this book is pretty slim. But what dooms the book to irrelevancy is that Calcutt & Shephard are themselves not much in the way of writers. Their descriptions are vague and formless, making most of the authors discussed sound much the same. It seems quite likely that Calcutt & Shephard haven't actually read most of the work under "discussion," especially when they try to balance opinions of critics about the author (C&S always use the word "critic" to indicate somebody with a negative opinion). Even more embarassing, they place inordinate emphasis at times on what novels have been filmed than the actual novel.

Here are some cult writers that would have filled out the book:

RA Lafferty

Harry Stephen Keeler

Count Potocki

James Blaylock

Alan Moore

W. H. Hudson

Thomas Love Peacock

Thomas Urquhart

Patrick O'Brien

H. Rider Haggard

Raymond Federman

James Branch Cabell

Gerard Nerval

Petrus Borel

JC Powys

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Marcel Allain & Pierre Souvestre

Howard Waldrop

Thomas De Quincey

William Hope Hodgson