Within literature’s greatest books lives another library of books, unpublished and unwritten, nested in other books, imagined by their authors and materialized only in the imaginations of their readers — a painfully vast body of potentially brilliant work that we’ll never get to hold in our hands. That’s not to say that every meta-book is a must-read; take for example The Dictionary of the Finnish Language by Caprinulge, which features in Aldous Huxley’s Chrome Yellow — completely unreal and yet completely not something we’d choose to leaf through. Similarly, the white-supremacist The Rise of the Colored Empires by Goddard, thought up by Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby is not all that high on our wish list. But then there are titles that, wholly made up, sound like they might be even more captivating than the books they live in. And it’s those that we never stop hoping will one day be in print. After the jump, peruse 16 titles we’d add to our bookshelves, if only we could.
“Higher Education” by Nathan Zuckerman, in The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
The Ghost Writer, like most of Roth’s books, is a never-ending layer cake of hypertext, filled with stories and stories about stories about stories. That we never get to read any works by the writers he endlessly talks up is an unavoidable frustration of reading Roth. But the unreadable story whose unreadability nags us most is his character Nathan Zuckerman’s short story “Higher Education.” Its publication is the source of a continuous dispute with his father, in a novel all about a boy with daddy issues. And while we get a three-page synopsis of the plot — a great aunt and uncle go to court over access to a trust fund — we struggle to figure out who is in the right, Zuckerman or his father, and make sweeping moral judgments without any understanding of how it all started.