Photo-Embedded Literature – 1970-1989
Here is my bibliography of works of fiction and poetry published in the years 1970-1989 containing embedded photographs. You can see individual bibliographies for other years underneath the pull-down menu “Photo-Embedded Literature” at the top of Vertigo. I am always updating these lists as I learn of new books. If you know of a book not included on my list, please let me know in a comment. [Last updated September 18, 2022.]
Kobo Abe. The Box Man. NY: Knopf, 1974. Contains nine b&w photographs, almost assuredly by Abe himself. This is the first English translation from the Japanese original Hako Otoko, published in 1973. For my review of this book, click here.
Jennifer Bartlett. A History of the Universe. NY: Nimbus Books, 1985. The painter’s semi-autobiographical novel contains a number of her own full-page b&w photographs.
Konrad Bayer. The Head of Vitus Bering: A Portrait in Prose. Melbourne: Rigmarole of the Hours, 1979. Bayer’s novel is often called the most important work issued by the Vienna Group. It’s an hallucinogenic transformation of the ill-fated exploration that led to the death of Bering and his crew on the Aleutian island named after him. It contains a single b&w photograph on the opening page. This is the first English translation from the original German edition of 1965. A “revised” translation was published by Atlas Press in 1994. Click here to see the connection between Bayer and W.G. Sebald.
Mathieu Bénézet. La Fin del’Homme. Paris: Flammarion, 1979. Bénézet’s “roman abandonné” (abandoned novel) contains eight photographs “that do not ‘illustrate’ the book but constitute integral elements of its meaning,” per Leon S. Roudiez in French Fiction Revisited (1991).
Charles Bernstein and Susan B. Laufer. The Occurrence of Tune. NY: Segue Books, 1981. Text by Bernstein, photographs by the artist Laufer.
Andre Breton. Mad Love. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987. Surprisingly, it took fifty years for this first English translation from the French original of 1937 L’Amour Fou., Breton’s Surrealist classic about the mysteries of love. Mad Love contains twenty black-and-white photographs, some of which are credited to Man Ray, Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and others. About half of the photographs reproduce Surrealist works of art.
Anthony Burgess. Beard’s Roman Women. NY: McGraw Hill, 1976. Ronald Beard is a writer living in Rome, haunted by the death of his first wife – but not enough to prevent him from hanging out with Paola, a photographer. The novel, based on Burgess’s second wife, Liana, includes seventeen photographs meant to be by Paola, but actually by British photographer David Robinson.
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Dictee. NY: Tanam Press, 1982. Now recognized as one of the key works in twentieth century avant-garde literature, Dictee is an experiment in autobiography that blends poetry and prose, history and memoir. It also contains numerous uncredited news photographs, portraits and reproductions of documents, including some depicting the author’s own manuscript for Dictee, thus anticipating Sebald’s use of embedded imagery by years. For my review of this book, click here.
Julio Cortázar. Around the Day in Eighty Worlds. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986. First English-language translation. Invoking Phineas Fogg, Man Ray, and Duchamp in the opening pages, Cortázar provides a rational for this collage of stories, poems, bits of memoir, and scores of images that include drawings, photographs, and reproductions of artworks. In the manner of his earlier book Hopscotch, there is no specific or correct order for reading seventy-five pieces included in this volume.
Peter De Lory. The Wild and the Innocent. Riverside: California Museum of Photography, 1987. A very brief story accompanied by photographs by de Lory, along with a song by artist Terry Allen. This is a fairly rare example of a photographer who ventures into the world of fiction.
Robert Duncan. Caesar’s Gate: Poems 1949-50. With paste-ups by Jess. n.p.: Sand Dollar, 1972. Life partners Robert Duncan and Jess collaborated on a number of books that consisted of Duncan’s poems and writings and Jess’s paste-ups (photo collages). This is a beautiful example that demonstrates the way in which their collaborations work in parallel, while remaining thematically distinct.
Jack Finney. Time and Again. NY: Scribner’s, 1970. A novel about time travel, illustrated with photographs.
John Gardner. Mickelsson’s Ghost. NY: Knopf, 1982. With a number of photographs by the author’s son Joel Gardner. A labyrinthine tale of a professor of philosophy who retires to a rural Pennsylvania farm in an attempt to remake his life.
Hervé Guibert. Suzanne et Louise. Paris: Editions Libres Hallier, 1980. A photo-roman, or photonovel with forty-four photographs by Guibert. Reissued in 2019 by Gallimard in an expanded edition.
Peter Handke. Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat. Suhrkamp, 1974. Poetry with color and b&w photographs by the author.
Paul Hewson and Linda Marie Walker. Cherished Objects: An Illustrated Novel. Adelaide: Experimental Art Foundation, 1989. A collaborative work by two artists. The text is about a cartographer who creates maps of imaginary places and an aging detective who files fanciful reports to his employer. There are black and white deadpan photographs on nearly every page, some of which illustrate aspects of the text, while others seem to have little relationship to the absurd and amusing story.
Richard Howard. Lining Up: Poems. NY: Atheneum, 1984. Contains the nine-part poem “Homage to Nadar,” which is comprised of sections on nine key 19th century artists who were photographed by Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon): Eugène Delacroix, Jean-François Millet, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Giuseppi Verdi, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Hector Berlioz, Jules Michelet, Gérard de Nerval, and Anatole France. Each section is accompanied by Nadar’s portrait of the subject. In addition, the poem “Impersonations” contains a reproduction of a painting by Henri Rousseau and a photograph by E. Montastier of the French novelist Pierre Loti impersonating the Egyptian god Osirus.
Alexander Kluge. Neue Geschichten. Hefte 1-18. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977. Stories by Kluge with numerous photographs. Kluge’s writing and use of embedded images greatly influenced Sebald. One section of Neue Geschichten (unillustrated) was translated into English in an anthology of Kluge’s writings published under the title Air Raid (Seagull Books 2014). Air Raid concludes with Sebald’s essay on Kluge called “Between History and Natural History. On the Literary Description of Total Destruction. Remarks on Kluge.”
E.V. Lucas & George Morrow. What a Life!: An Autobiography. NY: Dover, 1975. Reprint of the 1911 original. Fictional autobiography illustrated entirely with images cut out of a Whiteley’s (London department store) Catalogue. This reprint contains an introduction by poet John Ashberry.
E.V. L[ucas]., & G[eorge]. M[orrow]. What a Life!: An Autobiography. London: Collins, 1987. Yet another reprint of the 1911 originalThis fictional autobiography is illustrated solely with images cut out of a Whiteley’s department store catalog. An earlier reprint was put out in 1975 by Dover (see above). Nearly all of the illustrations seem to be engravings, but several look suspiciously like photographs. Nevertheless, this represents a very early example of a work of fiction in which the text and illustrations carry equal weight.
Albert Memmi. The Scorpion; or The Imaginary Confession. NY: Orion Press, 1971. Translated from the 1969 French original by Eleanor Levieux. Memmi’s novel about a man rummaging through the papers of his brother who has disappeared contains seven photographs and several reproductions of works of art and texts.
Paul Metcalf. I-57. New Haven: Longriver Books, 1988. “Not a poem, not a novel, not a history, not a journal, and yet at times some or all of these. An ideosyncratic approach to a place, a region, and to the interior and exterior life of an American.” With thirty-eight photographs attributed to the author and Leni Furhman.
Wright Morris. Plains Song: For Female Voices. 1980. A remarkable novel about three generations of Midwestern women. Each chapter begins with the same photograph – an oval image (as if seen through an oval mirror) of the corner of a room in which stands a table full of framed family portraits.
Eric Mottram. A Book of Herne. Colne, Lancashire: Published by Robert Bank at the Arrowspine Press, 1981. A quite rare book of poems, mostly about the English folklore surrounding Herne the Hunter, a ghost associated with Windsor Forest who first appears in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. About a dozen photographs or reproductions of artworks, all depicting images of Herne. One shows Jackson Pollock holding a Herne-line bone mask in front of his face.
Michael Ondaatje. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1970. Poems about Billy the Kid, with seven black and white photographs, some of which are credited to Montana photographer L.A. Huffman (1854-1931) and several reproductions from old books.
Michael Ondaatje. Coming Through Slaughter. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1976. Ondaatje’s first novel is the story of legendary New Orleans jazz cornet player Buddy Bolden (1876?-1931). Contains two photographs: one of Bolden’s band and one showing a series of three sonographs of dolphin sounds that relate to the manner in which Bolden played the cornet. See my review of this title here.
Ishmael Reed. Mumbo Jumbo. Garden City: Doubleday, 1972. Mumbo Jumbo triangulates between New Orleans, New York City, and Haiti, with a long excursion into the mythology and history of ancient Egypt. Reed uses photographs and other types of images in several tactical ways that support his insurgency against the forces of white logic and white history. When Reed wrote Mumbo Jumbo, however, there was no immediate precedent for the wide range of imagery embedded in his text, nor for the diverse, quirky roles his images play.
Ishmael Reed. A Secretary to the Spirits. NY: NOK, 1978. Poems, with approximately a half dozen full-page collages commissioned by artist Betye Saar, several of which include photographic elements.
Jacques Roubaud. Grand Incendie de Londres. Paris: Seuil, 1989. Contains a single photography by the author’s wife Alix. For my review of the 1991 English translation, click here.
W.G. Sebald. Nach Der Natur: Ein Elementargedicht. Nordlingen, Germany: Greno, 1988. Sebald’s first book of poetry included four double-page nature photographs by the German photographer Thomas Becker, which do not appear in any other editions of this title.
Ronald Sukenick. Blown Away. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1986. Sukenick’s often amusing tale of Hollywood, starring a mind reader named Boris O. Ccrab. Contains one illustration: a photocopy of a page from the October 24, 1978 LA Times, showing photographs of a forest fire around Malibu.
James Van Der Zee, Owen Dodson, and Camille Billops. The Harlem Book of the Dead. Dobbs Ferry: Morgan & Morgan, 1978. Photographs by Van Der Zee, poems by Dodson, and texts by Billops. This collaborative work uses Van Der Zee’s photographs of Harlem funerals to explore the African American culture of Harlem. Foreword by Toni Morrison.
Ivan White. Removal of an Exhibition. London: Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative, 1976. Poetry and some prose by White, with 36 b&w photographs (mostly snapshots and portraits) credited to Robert Golden. This was announced to be the first in a series of books called “Poetry in Progress,” volumes of poetry which were meant to include photographs, but it appears that no other title in the series was issued. ” Whenever possible, individual books shall employ photographic images. These are not merely decoration. Pictures – and especially photographic ones – are representations of facts out of a world we know but do not always acknowledge. Pictures are reminders of the ‘lost and found’ aspect of experience.” Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative was the original publisher of Susan Sontag’s first novel The Benefactor (1983).