- Sinbad the Sailor
- Tinbad the Tailor
- Jinbad the Jailer
- Whinbad the Whaler
- Ninbad the Nailer
- Finbad the Failer
- Binbad the Bailer
- Pinbad the Pailer
- Minbad the Mailer
- Hinbad the Hailer
- Rinbad the Railer
- Dinbad the Kailer
- Vinbad the Quailer
- Linbad the Yailer
- Xinbad the Phthailer
Didactic extended metaphor, best enjoyed amorally.
The sordid and lurid details of an author’s life; use as a critical rubric if the author’s work seems beyond comprehension.
Mixed or imprecise metaphor. When an author stretches her words like taffy across the loom of meaning.
DEATH OF THE NOVEL
Declare the novel dead every few weeks. Resuscitate as necessary.
Originally used to denote lengthy narrative works concerning serious subjects, this term may now be applied freely to modify failure, coffee, tacos, kittens, etc.
An inventive and imaginative style of fiction eschewed and denigrated by serious readers and writers.
Poetry composed in the secret language of garden gnomes, inaudible to mortal ears.
Defining common characteristic of all politicians.
Dominant mode of much of 21st century communication (including, lamentably, this list).
Hyperbole used to describe lengthy works of contemporary authors. Use to disappoint potential readers.
Circumlocution of meaning. E.g. “feed the eagle” for “kill,” “battle-sweat” for “blood,” “tube of garbage” for “internet.”
Poetry about lions.
Each reader’s personal misunderstanding of the meaning of a work of literature.
What your father reads.
A solipsistic bid for attention delivered under the pretense of reaching out to another entity.
Use to describe any work of literature set outside of a city.
A false clue employed by an author to distract the reader. A novel where all points of evidence are red herrings (preferable) is a shaggy dog story.
Grab bag of theories you learned in college.
Elevate any degraded work of pop culture by repeating it twice. Reboot as necessary.
This narrator cannot be depended upon to pick you up from the airport, water your plants while you’re away, meet you on time for a beer or coffee, return small loans, etc.
Indicative of literature of the prudish, uptight Victorian Era. Famous Victorian works include Venus in Furs, The Pearl, and The Lustful Turk.
Twentieth-century philosopher. Quote the first and last lines of his book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus frequently (don’t worry about reading anything in between).
Fear of warrior princesses.
The pinnacle of contemporary criticism.
The list ended with zeugma and disappointment.
A concise, often witty, turn of phrase that should be shared out of context on Twitter or Pinterest.
Novel where someone (preferably male) matures into the ideal state of bitter disillusionment.
Evocation of fear and pity. Best exemplified in modern storytelling by Lifetime Network original movies.
A form of textual analysis. No one knows what it means. Apply liberally.
Use to describe any French novel of the 20th century. Serve with coffee and cigarettes.
First, Outer, Inner, Last.
Deride genre fiction at all times. If a writer uses genre tropes, praise her for genre bending. (See LITERARY FICTION).
Use to describe any big ambitious novel that does not meet your aesthetic and/or moral needs.
All poetry is composed in iambic pentameter.
A writer’s immature work, which she usually (wisely) withholds from publication. After the writer dies, every scrap should be published, scrutinized, and passed around the internet out of context.
Synonym for “odd.” Apply freely.
A genre of fiction that pretends not to be a genre. What your book club is reading this month.
Use to describe any novel by a South American writer.
Use structuralist techniques to analyze narrative plots—and watch the kids go wild! Narratology is the number one thing the audience of a book review is interested in.
All heroes must be orphans.
Use this term liberally in any discussion of modern politics. Pairs well with film studies courses.
A form of literary analysis that conveniently begins with the letter “Q,” making it ideal for silly alphabetized lists like this one.
A character portrayed in psychological and emotional depth to the degree that she comes alive in your imagination. Round characters provide an excellent alternative to making meaningful human relationships.
Use to describe the style of any writer from the Southern part of the United States.
A tautology is a tautology.
Synonym for dystopia. Argue about its pronunciation, indicating that you understand the complexities of Greek prefixes.
A genre of books that sells well in airports.
Beloved warrior princess. Look, x is hard, okay?
The original sad bastard; he invented emo.
Time’s ghost. You’re soaking in it, which makes it hard to see.
- 10,000 BC
- Ishmael & Queequeg
- Father Mapple & Jonah
- Bildad & Peleg
- Starbuck, Stubb & Flask
- Queequeg, Tashtego & Daggoo
- Starbuck & Queequeg
- Stubb & Tashtego
- Flask & Daggoo
- Stubb & Cook
- Steelkilt & Radney
- Moby Dick
- Ahab & Starbuck
- Ahab & Pip
- Ahab & Fedallah
- Ahab & Carpenter
- Ahab & Perth
- Ahab & Gardiner
- Ahab & Moby Dick
- Robert Walser
- Franz Kafka
- Henry Miller
- Thomas Bernhard
- David Markson
- Renata Adler
- W.G. Sebald
- Lydia Davis
- Ben Marcus
From the entry “All Subjects with Fresán,” in Bolaño’s collection Between Parentheses, a list of stuff the late writer talked about with his good friend, which includes (as usual) plenty of references to writers, poets, directors—and some funny jokes as well. Read part of Fresán’s essay “The Savage Detective” – it was the piece that first got me to go pick up a Bolaño. Here’s the list—
1) The Latin American hell that, especially on weekends, is concentrated around some Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald’s.
2) The doings of Buenos Aires photographer Alfredo Garofano, childhood friend of Rodrigo and how a friend of mine and of anyone with the least bit of discernment.
3) Bad translations.
4) Serial killers and mass murders.
5) Prospective leisure as the antidote to prospective poetry.
6) The vast number of writers who should retire after writing their first book or their second or their third or their fourth or their fifth.
7) The superiority of the work of Basquiat to that of Haring, or vice versa.
8 ) The works of Borges and the works of Bioy.
9) The advisability of retiring to a ranch in Mexico near a volcano to finish writing The Turkey Buzzard Trilogy.
10) Wrinkles in the space time continuum.
11) The kind of majestic women you’ve never met who come up to you in a bar and whisper in your ear that they have AIDS (or that they don’t).
12) Gombrowicz and his conception of immaturity.
13) Philip K. Dick, whom we both unreservedly admire.
14) The likelihood of a war between Chile and Argentina and its possible and impossible consequences.
15) The life of Proust and the life of Stendhal.
16) The activities of some professors in the United States.
17) The sexual practices of titi monkeys and ants and great cetaceans.
18) Colleagues who must be avoided like limpet mines.
19) Ignacio Echevarria, whom both of us love and admire.
20) Some Mexican writers liked by me and not by him, and some Argentine writers like by me and not by him.
21) Barcelonan manners.
22) David Lynch and the prolixity of David Foster Wallace.
23) Chabon and Palahniuk, whom he likes and I don’t.
24) Wittgenstein and his plumbing and carpentry skills.
25) Some twilit dinners, which actually, to the surprise of the diner, become theater pieces in five acts.
26) Trashy TV game shows.
27) The end of the world.
28) Kubrick’s films, which Fresán loves so much that I’m beginning to hate them.
29) The incredible war between the planet of the novel-creatures and the planet of the story beings.
30) The possibility that when the novel awakes from its iron dreams, the story will be there.