Cult fiction? Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Register | Edit Profile

HOME | CATALOG | DOWNLOADS | LINKS | EDITORIALS | DISCUSSION | CONTACT

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | User List | Help/Instructions | Log Out | Edit Profile | Register
Night Shade Message Boards » Mamatas, Nick » Cult fiction? « Previous Next »

Author Message
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Nick Mamatas
Posted on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 11:21 pm:   

Who has a definition of cult fiction for me? Is it a genre?
Whissen says so and offers these titles as his top 50:

-- Against Nature, Joris-Karl Huysmans
-- Animal Farm, George Orwell
-- Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Robbins
-- Axel, Philippe Auguste Villiers de Lisle-Adam
-- Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, Richard Farina
-- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
-- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
-- A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
-- The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
-- Catch-22, Joseph Heller
-- A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
-- The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West
-- Demian, Hermann Hesse
-- Dune, Frank Herbert
-- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
-- The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (see, the stinker!)
-- Frankenstein, or the Modern Promethus, Mary Shelley
-- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
-- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
-- The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson
-- Lady Chatterley's Lover, D.H. Lawrence
-- Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
-- Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe
-- Lord of the Flies, William Golding
-- Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (only read the first)
-- Lost Horizon, James Hilton
-- Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
-- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
-- On the Road, Jack Kerouac
-- The Outsider, Colin Wilson
-- The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton
-- Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
-- Renee, Francois-Renee de Chateaubriand
-- A Separate Peace, John Knowles
-- Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse
-- Slaughterhouse-Five or the Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, Kurt Vonnegut
-- The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
-- The Stand, Stephen King
-- Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse
-- The Stranger, Albert Camus
-- Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
-- The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
-- The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, Carlos Castaneda
-- This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
-- Time and Again, Jack Finney
-- Trout Fishing in America, Richard Brautigan
-- 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
-- Walden II, B. F. Skinner
-- Warlock, Oakley Hall
-- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig



What do these books have in common?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Brendan
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 09:23 am:   

Well, I think whoever put those names together is a little off balance. "Dune" and Huysmans just dont mix that I can see.

I dont much like the term "Cult" though. It gives me the idea of a group of people sitting around holding lighted tapers . . . and reading The Sun Also Rises.(???)

Yes, if Hemmingway is a "Cult Hero," then that is a pretty damn big cult.

Brendan
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

GabrielM
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 09:28 am:   

Maybe it's just works that inspire an unusual degree of devotion among their readers?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Robert Devereux
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 11:58 am:   

Cult fiction should be "fiction that is the object of obsessive, especially faddish, devotion." So any author who has obsessive fans could be a "cult fiction author" but if it's temporarily "cool" to read an book and be devoted to it, then it fades from popularity, that would be even more worthy of the label "cult fiction." I'm pretty much out of the loop for knowing if any book is faddish, so I can't say if any of the books fit for this.

Besides that definition, I do see a thread connecting many of the listed books. Many are are cultural landmarks (of a sort) but aren't read by too many. I think you could go up to many random people and ask if they've heard of the books and they'll say "Yes" but won't have actually read any of them. So they are well known, but not widely read.

To illustrate - people are familiar with the term "Catch-22" but most (myself included) haven't read the book.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Brendan
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 12:35 pm:   

Yes, but I would say there are very few "literate" people who have not read Portrait of an Artist or The Sun Also Rises.

Axel (which is a play, so who knows why it is there), was sort of "cult" in Paris after Villier's death, but I would doubt many people follow it fadishly these days.

The Stranger might have a "cult" following amongst symnambulists . . .

The Great Gatsby certainly is "cult" amongst Junior High School creative writing teachers and Playboy center-folds . . .

And the "cult" which follows The Sorrows of Werther consists of probably about 60 percent of the population of Germany and Austria.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

brendan
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 12:36 pm:   

somnambulists . . . or who knows . . .
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Nick Mamatas
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 12:53 pm:   

Whissen also suggests (I'm just stealing quotes from websites, I haven't bought his book because I'm a Johnny Cheap-ass) that encompasses the cultural components of "romanticism, democratic idealism, myth-dream, opportunity, and truth" and the psychological components of "idealization, alienation, ego-reinforcement, suffering, and vulnerability."

From that, there are certainly commonalities. The setting of most of these books, the one's I've read anyway, are detourned by or at war with the narrator or protagonist. What is it that makes that kind of book a cultural landmark, or a potential one?

I was also interesting in how many of these are being taught in junior high and high schools.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 01:17 pm:   

Nick:

From the list, here is what my wife either does teach, or has taught, in her High School English classes:

-- Animal Farm, George Orwell
-- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
-- The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
-- Frankenstein, or the Modern Promethus, Mary Shelley
-- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
-- Lord of the Flies, William Golding
-- A Separate Peace, John Knowles
-- The Stranger, Albert Camus

Not very many. She hated BRAVE NEW WORLD and only taught it once because it was required in the curriculum. GATSBY and FRANKENSTEIN are among her favorite books. I'm suprised something like PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY is not on this list.

As for a connection, I have great difficulty drawing conncections between HITCHHIKER and KILLER INSIDE ME. Perhaps these are all works of fiction with singularly unique, powerful voices? But then, where's Lansdale, Waldrop, Gibson, Lethem, Gene Wolfe, etc.?

Yeah, I guess a lot of these works deal with protagonists who are or feel alienated by the world around them and take steps to change that. Protagonists thrust into worlds/situations that they did not choose for themselves and are now stuck making sense of them? But how is that 'cultish'? Why wouldn't NEUROMANCER be on this list?

Wow, that was useful. Fuck it, I'm posting it anyway.

JK
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

GabrielM
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 01:56 pm:   

>>The setting of most of these books, the one's I've read anyway, are detourned by or at war with the narrator or protagonist. What is it that makes that kind of book a cultural landmark, or a potential one?


The age at which they're read perhaps? Readers in their fifties tend to have fewer literary life-changing epiphanies than readers in their late teens. "Cult novels" are for the most part the novels that intelligent high school and college kids rhapsodize over and as such they're going to be the ones that mirror their experience -- alienation, rebellion, lifestyle experimentation, the search for some transcendental belief system, "finding oneself", etc. There are exceptions, obviously, but I don't think it's just coincidence that in a list of fifty titles, words like "stranger", "young" and "outsider" all make more than one appearance. (Then again, so does "lord", so just ignore that.)
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Rhys
Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 03:00 am:   

A "cult" book is one you discover before your friends do. If they discover it first it's just a "fad" book...
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Nick Mamatas
Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 08:07 am:   

The list is a "top 50" so it naturally stops at 50 (of course, there are only 14 entries of the top 100 surrealist fictions). Any attempt at canon-building will have "What about [this book I liked]" responses. Whissen isn't claiming that these are the only cult books around. He's canon-building, so of course he fails. But does he fail in an interesting way?

Rhys: what if your friends spend all day in front of their computers, downloading bukkake porn, and haven't read a book since Hammer's Slammers in 10th grade?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

dickreese
Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2004 - 11:01 am:   

this is dumb. Most of these books are classics and don't stimulate cult activity, the creater here is an idiot.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

bleep
Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2004 - 11:11 am:   

You dumb head dick reese. you dumb head. mamatas not dumbhead. you can't spell creator right. har har.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

bloop
Posted on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 - 08:20 am:   

bleep, i think dick reese mean about creater of list, not writor of post. so he not so dumb head, but need for to find shift key for big lettors and get spellcheckor, he have comma-splice problom to.

Add Your Message Here
Post:
Username: Posting Information:
This is a private posting area. Only registered users and moderators may post messages here.
Password:
Options: Enable HTML code in message
Automatically activate URLs in message
Action:

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | User List | Help/Instructions | Log Out | Edit Profile | Register