Julianne of Outlandish Lit is hosting a #Weirdathon during the month of March. Sign-up post is here.
As Julianne says in the sign-up post, what counts as weird is anything that is weird to you. Like most book bloggers, I love to make lists of books. I decided to trawl through my Ridiculously Long™ Goodreads to-read list and identify all the weird books.
I quickly realized that I had a personal taxonomy of “weird” books:
Form & Style – these are the books where the form is unusual. The author has done something unconventional with the way they wrote the book.
- I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters by Rabih Alameddine [consists of the main character’s attempts to write the first chapter of her memoir]
- *Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau, trans. by Barbara Wright [consists of 100 retellings of the same plot, each time in a different style, e.g. sonnet, opera, etc.]
- The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order by Joan Wickersham [the author reflects on her father’s life and death in the form of an index.
Short Stories – a lot of the “weird” books were short stories collections where fantastical, absurd and strange things happened to people. (Does anyone feel like short story collections often have the best titles?)
- The Thing About Great White Sharks by Rebecca Adams Wright [featuring robotic dogs, futuristic flying circuses, and sharks of course]
- 29 Ways to Drown by Niki Aguirre [stories influenced by Latin American magic realism]
- *Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer, trans. by Ursula LeGuin [stories w/ fantasy and magical realism, all presented as the history/myths of a fictitious Empire]
Narrated by Animals – I didn’t have a lot of these, but enough to see it as a trend. It’s rare for there to be adult books with animal protagonists, and so it’s kind of weird when it happens.
- The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy [Elephant herd sets across the African plains on a quest]
- Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis [From the synopsis – “a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic.”]
- Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann [A flock of sheep attempt to solve the mystery of their murdered shepherd]
Translated Fiction – An unusual preponderance of weird books on my list happen to also be translated works. The books listed above with an * are translated works.
- There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, trans. by Keith Gessen [These are also short stories.]
- Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov, trans. by George Bird [A strange suspense novel involving a man and his pet penguin]
- The Room by Jonas Karlsson, trans. Neil Smith [A government office worker discovers a secret room, which his co-workers do not see]
I had other weird books that didn’t fit into any of these categories but I thought these recurring themes were interesting. In general, with the exception of books from the Form & Style category, my “weird” books usually involve fantastical elements but are not quite fully in the fantasy genre. I would call it magical realism, but I’m not sure what that term means nowadays.
I have picked four books to be on my #Weirdathon TBR pile. I don’t know that I’ll read all four, though none are particularly long, so it’s possible I might. Three I’ve already mentioned in my taxonomy above: The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy, Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, and There Once Lived a Woman . . . by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. The fourth is a recommendation from Julianne, host of the #Weirdathon: Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce.