What is fiction and why does it matter? Metafiction addresses these questions. Metafiction is fiction about fiction, or fiction that is somehow self-reflective. This is a list of the most important metafictional texts and works that contain metafictional elements, including some metapoems and metaplays, with explanations of what makes them metafiction. For those who want to read more about certain selections, I have included links to relevant posts on my blog and outside sources. This list is not meant to be comprehensive but to give readers an idea of the range and richness of metafiction. Delicious! Enjoy! For a more selective list, see my post Top Twenty One Metafictional Works: The Story That Swallows Its Tale.
Harold scribbles across the cover, flyleaves and title page with his purple crayon, but then pauses in thought, looking at his squiggles, realizing, perhaps, that they are meaningless. The next page is also a jumble, but the line flattens out, trailing behind Harold, who has begun to walk from left to right. Harold pauses, staring into the blankness of the upper right hand corner. The first text of the story appears under his feet: “One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.” The decision to go for a walk, rather than rambling, is what makes the crooked line straight. The first change in Harold’s artistic development is purpose.
On the cover of The Monster at the End of This Book Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover, Grover breaks the narrative fourth wall and smiles and waves at the readers, a bit shyly, saying “Hello, everybodeee!” No mistaking that voice! Then the title page, which readers always turn past quickly, like Grover, who is already peeling back one corner of the illustrated page (drawn on the real paper), saying, “This is a very dull page. What is on the next page?”
In On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss, Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell, who is just learning to spell, writes out the alphabet on a chalkboard and says, “The A is for Ape. And the B is for Bear. / The C is for Camel. The H is for Hare.” He knows all the letters through to Z for Zebra. “So now I know everything anyone knows / From beginning to end. From the start to the close. Because Z is as far as the alphabet goes.” In other words, the alphabet allows him to learn about the known animals of the world, the implication being that without the alphabet he may never have known about hares or zebras.
Is a novel defined by its length or by a certain approach? Can we consider a story that is not long a novel if it is epic in scope, representing a range of experiences and emotions? If so, isn’t Snoopy’s It Was a Dark and Stormy Night a novel?