I love books about books—I mean, in a sense, every book is about a book in that it is a response to a book, but books about the very nature of fiction just make me all aglow with happiness. Combine that with my interest in the evolution of the modern fantasy genre (and especially how fantasy stood before Tolkien), and you’ve got today’s selections. (Have I ever mentioned I feel like I’m trying to pair a wine with a meal when I’m drawing these posts up? Because I do.)
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi
From Atlantis to Xanadu and beyond, this Baedeker of make-believe takes readers on a tour of more than 1,200 realms invented by storytellers from Homer’s day to our own. Here you will find Shangri-La and El Dorado; Utopia and Middle Earth; Wonderland and Freedonia. Here too are Jurassic Park, Salman Rushdie’s Sea of Stories, and the fabulous world of Harry Potter. The history and behavior of the inhabitants of these lands are described in loving detail, and are supplemented by more than 200 maps and illustrations that depict the lay of the land in a host of elsewheres. A must-have for the library of every dedicated reader, fantasy fan, or passionate browser, Dictionary is a witty and acute guide for any armchair traveler’s journey into the landscape of the imagination.
Next week, my review of Manguel’s A History of Reading will go up, and you’ll see just how much I enjoyed reading it—and that’s the reason I want to read this. Manguel on reading is fantastic; if he can get more specific, I’m up for it. Plus, the limitations (it has to have occurred on Earth proper; Middle-earth’s mythic past narrative earns it a spot) makes it a way to see just where fiction and reality meet. Oh, I want to read it already…
C. B. James at Ready When You Are, C.B. enjoys the dedication to the encyclopedic tone and the wide breadth of fantastical places presented here. Linda L. Richards writing for January Magazine loves having all these places at hand and the way every fantastical place, from Hogwarts to Troy, is treated with the same amount of respect.
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places was published on November 2, 2000.
A Guide to Fantasy Literature by Philip Martin
A Guide to Fantasy Literature is a wide-ranging look at the magic of fantasy storytelling and why it delights and enchants readers of all ages. The book discusses the nature of the best writing, from tales of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia to other diverse examples of classic high fantasy, dark fantasy, fairy-tale, magic realism, and adventure-fantasy tales.
The book examines the major building blocks of fantasy fiction, and discusses its purpose and popularity today. Includes material from interviews and samples of outstanding passages from the writings of the best fantasists, drawing an inclusive picture of a vibrant literary community across the ages.
The book looks to bridge the perceived gap between literary and genre approaches, while focusing on the roots of fantasy in imaginative investigations of faith and belief, wonder and awe, in ways that distinguish the field from science-fiction speculative fiction.
Note: This is a substantially revised edition based on an earlier work, A Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature (ISBN 0-87116-195-8), published by The Writer Books (2002, now out of print). The new edition is oriented more broadly to a general audience of readers and writers of fantasy.
You had me at “bridge the perceived gap between literary and genre approaches”.
Martin Lewis at the SF Site found it to be ragtag, much too short, and confused about its own audience. Charlotte at Charlotte’s Library found it to be an interesting start to a conversation on fantasy literature and a resource for younger fantasy fans, but also confused about its own audience.
A Guide to Fantasy Literature was published on June 15, 2009.