Metafiction (see: “intertextual fiction”): self-referential fiction. A simple definition but one open to great possibilities. Think of the infinite mirror effect in that when two similar subjects are forced to reflect each other, self-commentary snowballs.
For me, the pull started with Jorge Louis Borges’s story, “The Garden of Forking Paths”:
“In all fictional works, each time a man is confronted with several alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others; in the fiction of the almost unfathomable Ts’ui Pen, he chooses – simultaneously – all of them. He creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times with themselves also proliferate and fork…No one realized that the book and the labyrinth were one and the same.”
For Borges, character was secondary to plot, a tactic generally snubbed by the literateri as a convention of commercial(ized) fiction. But for Borges, the philosophical ideas were so strong that they became characters in and of themselves. The Library of Babel and The Circular Ruins (both appearing in stories of the same name) are far more interesting concepts than any character that may be dropped within them.
A few years after I discovered Borges, I happened upon Mark Z. Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES which takes the idea of Metafiction and mashes it against illustrative elements to create both a figurative and literal labyrinth with(in) the text. See this and try not drool:
I bring up Metafiction for two reasons:
1) I think we are only beginning to see with Metafiction what will certainly become a much more popular style in the years to come. With desktop publishing at a point that anyone with a computer and a thumb can layout a book, and with other artistic mediums now being so easy to manipulate on-screen, the possibilities truly are endless to create mini-networks of self-referential “book objects.” And where there is ability, there will be a niche (then (un)fortunately a grocery store shelf) to fill.
2) What else is out there? I’m looking more for the book that manipulates the physical features of a book (more like HOUSE OF LEAVES rather than manipulates the concept (less like Borges’s work). Post a comment, guide me.