Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« What He Said | Today The Stranger Suggests »

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Invisible Library

posted by on August 25 at 10:52 AM

The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only exist in other books.

From the Ks:

KLOPPER, Wilhelm: Die Kultur als Fehler

—from Stanislaw Lem’s A Perfect Vacuum

KNIGHT, Sebastian:
The Doubtful Asphodel
The Funny Mountain
Lost Property
The Prismatic Bezel

—from Vladimir Nabokov’s The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

KOUSKA, Cezar: De Impossibilitate Vitae and De Impossibilitate Prognoscendi

—from Stanislaw Lem’s A Perfect Vacuum

KRAFT, Fellowes:
Bitten Apples (novel of a young Shakespeare)
Bruno’s Journey (biographical novel about Giordano Bruno)

—from John Crowley’s Aegypt cycle

This is a great way to use a blog.

RSS icon Comments


I've always wanted to read Kilgore Trout's pulp sci-fi.

Posted by Ziggity | August 25, 2008 10:56 AM

Heinlein's character, Jubal Harshaw, from Stanger in a Strange Land, was also an author. Actualy he just thought up the plots and commanded his secretaries to finish the books.

Posted by inkweary | August 25, 2008 11:16 AM

Very nice.

Perhaps the ultimate example is the encyclopedia article on Uqbar in the Anglo-American Cyclopedia, described as "a literal if inadequate reprint of the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1902," which declares that "mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men." Uqbar exists only in the mind of JL Borges, or course.

Posted by Gurldoggie | August 25, 2008 11:24 AM

...of course.

Posted by Gurldoggie | August 25, 2008 11:25 AM

Please tell me you chose the Ks in order to show Kraft.

Posted by Pierce M. | August 25, 2008 12:05 PM

Reminds me of the Library in Sandman. It contains all the books never written.

Posted by Gitai | August 25, 2008 12:06 PM

It almost seems like cheating to use Lem. He has a whole volume reviewing books that have never been written, and another of introductions. The fake book was one of his major literary devices.

Posted by Tyler | August 25, 2008 1:33 PM

I think my favorite book within a book is the unnamed work by Robert Cohn, of which Jake Barnes said, "He wrote a novel, and it was not really such a bad novel as the critics later called it, although it was a very poor novel.”

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | August 25, 2008 2:24 PM

Any list like this that doesn't include the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (or the numerous books contained within) is deemed incomplete... lol of course any list like this will be incomplete.

Posted by Head | August 25, 2008 3:15 PM

Also the Encyclopaedia Galactica.

Posted by Greg | August 25, 2008 5:09 PM

"The King in Yellow" by Robert W. Chambers, contains references to another book called "the king in yellow", which causes insanity and death to those who read it.

Posted by LMSW | August 25, 2008 5:40 PM

As one of the proprietors of the Invisible Library, I'm here to say thanks for the suggestions, several of which we wouldn't have thought of.

We're just getting started, so the collection's a bit hit-or-miss--our Fellowes Kraft entry, for example, includes just what I came across on a quick flip through The Solitudes; a more systematic search awaits. And a friend reminded me about the Douglas Adams titles last night, so they're there now.

More to come, and suggestions are welcome, either in comments at the blog itself on each letter or e-mailed to

Posted by Levi Stahl | August 25, 2008 8:17 PM

Thanks for a great site that will grow huge in time -- you have hardly scratched the surface.

IN Little, Big: The Architecture of Country Houses by John Drinkwater.
Anonymous: Upstate Houses and their Histories.

In the Aegypt cycle:

By Fellowes Kraft:

The Werewolf of Prague
Skin Deep (a piece of pornography, Herm Press)
Scream Bloody Murder
Under Saturn (about Wallenstein)
A Passage at Arms (privateers)
The Court of Silk and Blood (St. Bartholomew's Night)
Ill-met by Moonlight (stories)

(All these are merely titles: maybe you're only including books from which passages are available.)

Dictionary of the Devils, Deities and Daemons of Mankind by Alexis Payne de St.-Phalle

Some others: There's the book in "Books Do Furnish a ROom" that Jenkins complains "came in 25000 words too short and titled 'Than Whom What Other'," but I don;t remember if it had an author. And there are the books by the avant-garde postwar novelist X. Trapnel: "Portraits in String" and "Camel Ride to the Tomb".

Posted by john crowley | August 26, 2008 7:58 AM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.