Bibliographies in novels?

The Times has an interesting story about how some recent novels by authors including Martin Amis, Norman Mailer, and William Vollmann contain bibliographies.

“It’s terribly off-putting,” said James Wood, the literary critic for The New Republic. “It would be very odd if Thomas Hardy had put at the end of all his books, ‘I’m thankful to the Dorset County Chronicle for dialect books from the 18th century.’ We expect authors to do that work, and I don’t see why we should praise them for that work. And I don’t see why they should praise themselves for it.”

Traditionally confined to works of nonfiction, the bibliography has lately been creeping into novels, rankling critics who call it a pretentious extension of the acknowledgments page, which began appearing more than a decade ago and was roundly derided as the tacky literary equivalent of the Oscar speech. Purists contend that novelists have always done research, particularly in books like “Madame Bovary” that were inspired by real-life events, yet never felt a bibliography was necessary.

I recently read a wonderful bibliography in Joshua Prager’s The Echoing Green, but I think bibliographies for works of fiction should not be included in the novels themselves, but would certainly be apprpriate for, say, the author’s website.

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