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Photography-Embedded Fiction – Annual Lists

I’m slowly adding to Vertigo sections of my bibliography of works of fiction and poetry that have embedded photographs as an integral part of the “text.”  You can see bibliographies for other years underneath the pull-down menu “Photo-Embedded Literature” at the top of Vertigo.    I maintain a complete listing of the titles I know about at my LibraryThing catalog.  My catalog is called VertigoTwo.   Leave me a comment if you know of additional books.

On an annual basis I post lists of newly published titles along with some brief commentary.  I am also slowly working my way backward through earlier years.

A list of books published from 2000-2004.

A list of books published from 2005-2009.

A list of books published in 2010.

A list of books published in 2011.

A list of books published in 2012.

A list of books published in 2013.

A list of books published in 2014.

A list of books published in 2015.

42 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tim Pears’ new book Landed (pub 2010) has some very Sebaldish photographs describing a fictional road accident.

    March 26, 2010
  2. Sara #

    Fascinating resource!
    Probably a dumb question, but are all the photographs in these works ‘visual’, or can they be fictional, verbal ones functioning (for e.g.) as plot clinchers, evidence, etc?

    June 19, 2011
    • The photographs I am referring to in all of these books are strictly visual images embedded within the text. There is a very large world of verbally described photographs, but my interest lies in the literary phenomenon of real photographs as a kind of text.

      June 19, 2011
  3. The Box Man by Kobo Abe has some eerie photographs in it.

    August 30, 2011
    • Great! I knew Abe is a photographer and I’ve read many of his books. But I’ve never looked at The Box Man. Will do so promptly!

      Terry

      August 31, 2011
  4. Can vouch for Abe’s Box Man, definitely strange photos, as a Sebald fan I guess you know about Unrecounted , which has lithographs by Jan Peter Tripp.

    December 29, 2011
  5. Alan #

    Terry, I really enjoy your site. Have been catching up on the past posts. Not sure if you have posted this title yet. Jack Finney’s Time and Again? Thanks

    March 14, 2012
    • Alan, Thanks! The Finney book is new to me. I really appreciate the tip.

      Terry

      ________________________________

      March 14, 2012
  6. You should be looking into this title :
    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (2011)

    August 21, 2012
    • Thanks for the comment about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I’ve got a copy but haven’t updated the 2011 list recently. I’ll have to do that soon.

      Terry

      ________________________________

      August 21, 2012
  7. Michael #

    Have you cited Pamuk’s Istanbul? a book I find almost sickeningly indebted to Sebald.

    September 16, 2012
    • I haven’t read Istanbul (I had trouble finishing several other books by Pamuk). So I haven’t too closely at it yet. Is it fictional enough to be “fiction”? I’d love some advice on this.

      Terry

      ________________________________

      September 16, 2012
  8. A Winter Book: Selected Stories by Tove Jansson (pub. Sort Of Books) contains some photos.

    March 10, 2013
    • Rise, Thanks for the tip! I must get this. -Terry

      ________________________________

      March 10, 2013
  9. michael #

    Funny that another reader named Michael mentions Pamuk and feels exactly as I do.

    July 2, 2013
  10. Hi Terry, you might want to add Zeepijn (Sea Pine) by Dutch author Charlotte Mutsaers and Terpentijn en Oorlog (Terpentine and War) by Flemish author Stefan Hertmans. They both deserve being translated into English…

    November 8, 2013
    • Terry #

      Thanks! I will look into these titles. Terry

      November 8, 2013
  11. Hello Terry, lurking reader here. I found this quote in an interview with Geoff Dyer:
    “GD: I guess I’d read a lot of Kundera at that point, had absorbed that idea of the novelistic essay. It’s worth saying that Somme came out before any of Sebald’s books, just in case people have the idea that I got the notion of sticking in the photographs from Sebald!”

    The interview can be found here, I found it very interesting:
    http://www.believermag.com/issues/201203/?read=interview_dyer

    Best/Mattias

    November 19, 2013
    • Rise #

      It’s worth saying that Somme came out before any of Sebald’s books

      Not true. Somme came out in 1994 after Sebald’s books came out in original German in 1990 (Vertigo) and 1992 (The Emigrants).

      November 19, 2013
      • Reading between the lines, I took Dyer’s statement to be a reference to the dating of Sebald’s books as they appeared in English. The Emigrants doesn’t appear in England until 1996. This interpretation would let The Missing of the Somme pre-date Sebald by two years. That said, Dyer seems to be doing an awful lot of fudging about whether or not this book is fiction (it’s a “novelistic essay” or an “essay in mediation” he says, whatever those things mean). Judging from what one can see from the “Look Inside” view on Amazon, Somme reads like non-fiction and there doesn’t seem to be anything innovative about the selection or use of photographs. In other words, a superficial glance at Somme suggests that it would appear to most eyes in 1994 like an otherwise unremarkable book of memoir/essay, certainly not in the way that the photographs in Sebald’s books seemed so startling at first. I would hazard an opinion here that Dyer is being truthful when he says he wasn’t influenced by Sebald and probably didn’t know Sebald’s books, but that he really wasn’t doing anything innovative by including photographs in Somme. Thus, Somme wouldn’t really have any claim to being a precedent in the use of photographs.

        November 19, 2013
    • Mattias, Many thanks for mentioning this. I’d looked at Dyer’s book The Missing of the Somme before and assumed it was non-fiction. I’m becoming convinced there really is no easily definable demarcation between fiction and non-fiction, and it sounds as if Dyer is deliberately blurring the distinction in Somme. I found a good interview with him in the Los Angeles Times where he addresses the non-fiction/fiction issue like this:

      J[acket]C[opy]: You call your book “[n]ot a novel but an essay in mediation: research notes for a Great War novel I had no intention of writing, the themes of a novel without its substance …”

      GD: The book grew out of a visit to the cemeteries on the Somme, an experience that might have given rise to a novel — a novel that many other people could have written. In some ways my book is an early symptom or expression of writerly — and readerly — impatience that has become more acute in the years since I finished it. Also of a compulsion to come up with something formally original, unique to the subject, as opposed to filling a pre-existing mold. For many writers that’s what a novel is: a pre-existing mold.

      JC: That novelistic impulse seems to emerge in the personal sections late in the book, which are voicy and irreverent.

      GD: Generally speaking, I can’t bear unrelieved solemnity or piety; nor can I bear much so-called comic writing. As in real life I like the constant shuttling back and forth between serious and comic. Ideally, I like it if it’s impossible to draw the line between the two.

      November 19, 2013
  12. Terry,
    although Geoff Dyer’s writing seems quite interesting to me taken on its own terms (haven’t read him yet but ordered his books on photography and Stalker) I obviously didn’t intend too evaluate him in comparison to Sebald, but simply bring him to your attention since I couldn’t find any post of yours on Dyer.

    I also would like to say that I admire your strong focus on knowledge about and collecting of one particular, and consistently interesting, author. I would love to find my one special writer early enough in his/her career so as to be able to put together a good, not necessarily big, but worthwhile collection and so building a deeper knowledge and understanding.

    November 19, 2013
  13. Maja #

    Interested in Canadian literature and photography, novels, poems, visual and verbal images, ekphrasis …. Do you have any suggestions? The authors must be Canadians. Thanks

    March 20, 2014
    • Here’s a start.

      S.D. Chrostowska. Permission: A Novel. She teaches at York University, Toronto.

      Carol Shields. Stone Diaries.

      Michael Ondaatje. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid & Coming Through Slaughter.

      Barbara Hodgson. Several books.

      Stephen Marche. Shining at the Bottom of the Sea.

      March 20, 2014
      • Maja #

        Thank you so much for the suggestions. I am eager to emerge in them. Ondaatje and Shields are already familiar but the others not

        March 21, 2014
  14. Doron #

    Hello Terry,
    I would like to add two more Authors to the list, both of them writes in hebrew but their books were translated to english:
    Dror Burstein- Who is actually a devout photo-novelist and a great admirer of Sebald.
    Ronit Matalon- her book “The One Facing Us: A Novel” was quite a bestseller, considering the Israeli Market.

    December 11, 2014
  15. Doron, Thanks! I have read Matalon’s book. In fact, I wrote about it several years ago: https://sebald.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/the-anxiety-of-the-visual/. But now I am anxious to see Burstein’s books. Best wishes.

    December 12, 2014
  16. Doron, Can you tell me which books by Burstein – whether in English of Hebrew – have photographs in them?

    December 14, 2014
  17. This is a fantastic use of a blog, I must say. I’m in the early stages of writing a dissertation on the intersection between textuality and visuality (figurative, photos, illustrations, comics) in American ethnic literature. I’m sure I’ll find some gems in these lists. Thanks.

    January 21, 2015
    • Oscar – Good luck with your research and writing. If I can help, just ask. And please let me know as you run across books I’ve overlooked.

      January 22, 2015
  18. Hi Terry

    These books of poems with photographs may also be of interest to you:

    William Allen, Sevastopol: On Photographs of War (Xenos Books, 1997).

    Brooke Bergan, Storyville: A Hidden Mirror (Asphodel Press, 1994).

    Jana Harris, Oh How Can I Keep On Singing?: Voices of Pioneer Women (Ontario Review Press, 1993); and We Never Speak of It: Idaho-Wyoming Poems, 1889-90 (Ontario Review Press, 2003).

    Marilyn Nelson, Carver: A Life in Poems (Front Street, 2001).

    Jon Thompson, Book of the Floating World (Parlor Press, 2004; an expanded edition with many more photographs was released by the same publisher in 2007).

    My collection Young Country, which features photographs by 19th-century photographer William Williams, was published by Auckland University Press in November 2014 – more on this (and my concept of co-mediality) is at http://kerryhines.net/young-country/

    All the best –

    Kerry

    February 7, 2016
    • Kerry – Thanks! What a great list. I’ll check them all out. – Terry

      February 7, 2016
  19. Hi Terry, I just discovered your site. What a treasure! As a recent Sebald enthusiast, I look forward to exploring it fully. If it’s not too downright vulgar to plug my own book, I will mention “Spoilers” (2011), a novel that integrates vintage postcards, mostly of the once-celebrated outdoor clinic of Dr. Locke in Williamsburg, Ontario during the 1930s. A young woman has an oblique connection to the clinic, and collects the postcards obsessively, using them as a catalyst to inner reflection. This one-minute reading from the book on YouTube is not from the woman’s PoV, but at least you can see some of the postcards. Thanks! Mark

    April 29, 2016
    • Mark, Thanks! It’s perfectly fine to promote your book. I’ll get a copy.

      April 29, 2016
  20. Anna #

    Hi Terry! I discovered your site a few days ago and I really enjoyed reading your posts and browsing through all these photo-embedded fiction! I´m in the early stages of writing a master thesis on memory and photography in English and German texts. Your site is really helpful! Do you have any suggestions for books dealing with the topics memory and history? Thanks.

    If you are interested in German literature, I would recommend to read “Pawel´s Briefe” by Monika Maron (it´s a mix of fiction and autobiography).

    All the best,

    Anna

    May 22, 2016
  21. pellethepoet #

    Midpoint and Other Poems by John Updike. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1969 / London : Andre Deutsch, 1969.

    2nd movement of title poem, II. THE PHOTOGRAPHS, consists entirely of 21 family photographs, many of them pixelated. Fragments of some of them are re-used in the 4th movement, IV. THE PLAY OF MEMORY, embedded within the verses.

    https://www.librarything.com/work/521271/

    June 13, 2016
    • Pelle, This sounds fascinating. Many thanks. I’ve ordered a copy.

      June 14, 2016
  22. pellethepoet #

    This one may already be on your radar, Terry, but it’s just hit the shelves in the UK and Australia, and is forthcoming in August in the US.

    War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans. London : Harvill Secker / Melbourne: Text Publishing / New York : Pantheon, 2016.

    First published in the Netherlands in 2013.

    There are about 12 photographs in the text, along with a number of paintings.

    http://www.stefanhertmans.be

    Guardian review: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jul/02/war-and-turpentine-by-stefan-hertmans-review

    July 16, 2016
    • Thanks! I’ll watch for this.

      July 16, 2016
  23. Hi Terry, Your blog is a fantastic read. I am also fascinated with photography and literature and have just started to explore the link between the two with my old snapshots (https://www.instagram.com/jackjinlio/).

    Not sure if this counts, but Nabakov’s ‘Speak, Memory’ comes to mine the most when I photo-embedded literature. It’s a memoir, but to me, reads like a novel.

    August 22, 2016
    • Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you like Vertigo. I just started to follow your Instagram feed and look forward to seeing more.

      I am a big fan of Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. But I didn’t include it in my bibliography. It’s often really hard for me to draw the line between memoir and memoir-fiction, so I tend to make it hard for a book like that to cross over the fiction line.

      August 23, 2016

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