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The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction (2005) - Various authors

Related: cult fiction - 2005

The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction (2005) - Michaela Bushell, Helen Rodiss Paul Simpson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Cover picture: Albert Camus


This new Rough Guide will make you a literary buff in the time it takes to say Jack Kerouac. Even if you already know your Hunter S Thompson from your Jim Thompson, you'll still find it hard to resist a book which tells you which cult novel has been implicated in assassinations, which world famous novelist offered to throw himself off a train to prove his devotion to his literary idol and which cult poet and prose stylist inspired a Broadway musical and the Velvet Underground. There's a critical guide to over 150 cult authors - from Kathy Acker to Yevgeny Zamyatin, including potted biographies, their must reads, and their surprising influences. Reviews of 100 cult novels - seminal works by authors who never quite achieved cult status themselves but still produced one classic work. Finally, there's a cult collection - a feast of literary trivia which categorises writers by the diseases they suffered for their art, reveals 12 literary giants who wrote standing up, and pores over the little known fictional epics of Sarah Bernhardt and Benito Mussolini.

see also: SF fiction - cult - fiction

From the publisher

Google the words “cult fiction” and you will unearth: a story about a religious sect suspected of coercion in Oxford and a compilation album on Virgin called This Is The Return Of Cult Fiction; while one online forum kicks off with the plaintive cry: “Who has a definition of cult fiction for me? Is it a genre?”

The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction is an eclectic, essential guide to the world’s greatest cult authors and the facts behind their fiction. The Rough Guide includes critical coverage of more than 200 writers, from Walter Abish to Richard Zimler, with potted biographies, must-reads and surprising influences. It features a section entitled The Isolation Ward, covering influential books by authors who never quite became cult figures, but who wrote one classic work. And it incorporates a feast of trivia, revealing authors who wrote standing up, who disdained punctuation, or who aspired to be heavyweights in the boxing ring as well as in print.

The term cult fiction implies lengthy and irrational devotion by an ardent minority to an author or book – a work or a body of work that is read and re-read repeatedly. Toby Litt suggests that in their purest form, cult books ought to have been out of print for ten years, although the title he nominates as his all-time cult book (the Bible) hasn’t been unavailable in the last four hundred. He has a point, though, when he suggests that cult fiction can be dangerous. Think JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, a classic novel of protest against phonies, and almost a sacred text for a surprising number of America’s most infamous assassins. Cult fiction moves people, often in unexpected ways. Thousands wanted to go on the road with Jack Kerouac, discuss mystic motorcycle maintenance with Robert Pirsig, debate existentialism and raincoats with Albert Camus or pay homage to Thomas Pynchon or Gabriel García Marquez.


Genre benders, beats, gurus, drunks, junkies, sinners, surrealists

“The book that means the most to me....”

Actors and authors nominate their favourite works.

Charlotte Rampling
“Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I will read and re-read it. I adore his books, they are so dark, so provocative .”

Minnie Driver
“Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, preferably read by Richard Burton. My dream entertainment.”

Oprah Winfrey
“Toni Morrison’s Beloved. A mother’s love, a ghost story, a spiritual quest. I felt this was part of the reason I was born.”

Kyle McLachlan
“Franz Kafka’s The Trial. When I first read it I thought Josef K, the man in a night- mare tale at the mercy of authority, was a very hyper guy, a tenacious man driving himself for answers. Then I got to play him on film and found he was a little like Twin Peaks’ Dale Cooper – an innocent drawn to darkness.”

The quality of the writing is often beside the point. Should Marcel Proust be considered cult? Many would simply claim he is a great writer, and he’s reviewed in the Rough Guide to Cult Fiction because being cult and being great are not mutually exclusive. But you can be a bad writer and a cult one: Truman Capote described Kerouac as “not writing but typing”, yet it’s the latter’s books, not those of his critic, that strike a chord with successive generations of readers. Being a cult author brings certain messianic bur- dens, which possibly explains why so many have gone underground. James Joyce so inspired F Scott Fitzgerald that, on meeting his idol, the American novelist offered to throw himself under a train to prove his devotion. Yet cultiness is fickle: nothing kills a literary cult quite as fast as being studied in classrooms, which is why the Rough Guide doesn’t include Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a cult book in the 1960s.

If the true cult book should be out of print for ten years, the truly cult author ought to have written one seminal novel, behaved abominably in public and then died tragically young. Or, better still, vanished without trace. As a strategy, however, this is not infallible. In 1955, the 21-year-old American poet and short story writer Weldon Kees abandoned his car near the Golden Gate Bridge and was never seen again; but his mysterious exit failed to lead to a boom in reputation or sales. Dylan Thomas never wrote a serious amount of anything, but lived up to the stereotype of how cult authors ought to behave. Not long before his death, while staying in Cornwall, he ran out into a sunny field one morning sipping a local herbalist’s champagne wine tonic and talking copiously. Then he stopped suddenly and said “Somebody’s boring me - I think it’s me”.

via http://www.roughguides.com/about/press/londonpressrelease/6cultfiction.pdf [Aug 2006]

List of the 194 cult authors

Kobo Abe, Walter Abish, Kathy Acker, Douglas Adams, Nelson Algren, Richard Allen, Martin Amis, Miguel Angel Asturias, Paul Auster, J. G. Ballard, John Franklin Bardin, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Georges Bataille, Heinrich Boll, Jorge Luis Borges, Jane Bowles, Paul Bowles, Kay Boyle, Leigh Brackett, Richard Brautigan, Harold Brodkey, Charles Bukowski, Mikhail Bulgakov, William S. Burroughs, James M. Cain, Italo Calvino, Albert Camus, Jim Carroll, Lewis Carroll, Angela Carter, Raymond Carver, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Raymond Chandler, Arthur C. Clarke, Jean Cocteau, Jonathan Coe, Leonard Cohen, Colette, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Richard Condon, Clarence Cooper Jr, Dennis Cooper, Robert Coover, Julio Cortazar, Douglas Coupland, Harry Crews, James Crumley, Samuel R. Delany, Don DeLillo, Phillip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis, Harlan Ellison, James Ellroy, John Fante, Ronald Firbank, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jasper Fforde, David Foster, John Fowles, Janet Frame, Jonathan Franzen, William Gaddis, Mary Gaitskill, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jean Genet, William Gibson, Andre Gide, Allen Ginsberg, Nikolai Gogol, Donald Goines, David Goodis, Alasdair Gray, Graham Greene, Zane Grey, Brion Gysin, Dashiell Hammett, Knut Hamsun, John Hawkes, Robert A. Heinlein, Richard Hell, Ernest Hemingway, Carl Hiaasen, Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes, Russell Hoban, Stewart Home, Michel Houellebecq, Dorothy B. Hughes, Herbert Huncke, Aldous Huxley, Gary Indiana, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Tove Jansson, W.E. Johns, B.S. Johnson, Thom Jones, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Anna Kavan, Weldon Kees, James Kelman, A. L. Kennedy, Jack Kerouac, Gerald Kersh, Ken Kesey, W.P. Kinsella, Danilo Kis, Heinrich von Kleist, Tadeusz Konwicki, Jerzy Kosinski, Jaan Kross, Milan Kundera, Andrey Kurkov, Gavin Lambert, Ursula K. Le Guin, Elmore Leonard, H.P. Lovecraft, Malcolm Lowry, Arthur Machen, Colin MacInnes, Julian Maclaren-Ross, Norman Mailer, Charles McCarry, Carson McCullers, Patrick McGrath, Thomas McGuane, Martin Millar, Yukio Mishima, Mohammed Mrabet, Haruki Murakami, Vladimir Nabokov, Jeff Noon, Patrick O'Brian, Flann O'Brien, Flannery O'Connor, George Orwell, Chuck Palahniuk, Mervyn Peake, Victor Pelevin, Georges Perec, Marge Piercy, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Price, Marcel Proust, Phillip Pullman, Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Queneau, Ann Quin, Raymond Radiguet, Derek Raymond, Ishmael Reed, Luke Rhinehart, Jean Rhys, Anne Rice, Arthur Rimbaud, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Tom Robbins, Joseph Roth, Juan Rulfo, Damon Runyon, Marquis de Sade, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, J.D. Salinger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Dorothy Sayers, Delmore Schwartz, Leonardo Sciascia, Hubert Selby Jr, Will Self, Iain Sinclair, Iceberg Slim, Gertrude Stein, Adalbert Stifter, D. M. Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Thompson, J.R.R. Tolkien, B. Traven, Alexander Trocchi, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Jules Verne, Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace, Irvine Welsh, Nathanael West, Oscar Wilde, Charles Willeford, Robert Anton Wilson, Cornell Woolrich, Richard Wright, Rudolph Wurlitzer, Richard Yates.

Isolation ward

Authors that did not make the list of cult authors, but are list with one work, 67 books which "have won enough acclaim, abuse or affection to earn them - but not necessarily their authors - cult status". --list via Callum James

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