Though all these titles appeared this year, you won’t find them at the bookshop or at the Kindle store, because they belong to what might be called the invisible library. This library contains books that exist only between the covers of other books — as descriptions, occasionally as brief excerpts, often simply as titles.
The books named above come from three very different sources. Flood figures in Caitlin Macy’s story “Bad Ghost” (from her collection “Spoiled”), a psychologically astute story in which a young woman recalls a fraught spell baby-sitting the author’s daughter. The précis of “Protracted” and a tough-as-leather passage of “Strip Tease” are among the many faux fictions in Steve Hely’s “How I Became a Famous Novelist,” a gleeful skewering of the publishing industry and every cliché of the writing life. And Greenwich and Clitherow (as well as Greenwich’s children’s-book-writing wife, Penny Boom, creator of “The Other Side of the Woods”) are characters in Dean Koontz’s “Relentless,” whose plot spirals out from a best-selling author’s bloody feud with a sinister critic to describe a vast cultural conspiracy. (Appropriately enough, it hit the top spot of the real Times best-seller list.)
Most such inventions have one foot in the comic. We can imagine Nabokov chuckling over Udo Conrad’s “Memoirs of a Forgetful Man” (in “Laughter in the Dark”) and Clare Quilty’s “Fatherly Love” (“Lolita”) — not to mention the alter-Nabokovian bibliography that kicks off his last complete book, “Look at the Harlequins!,” in which “The Gift” (“Dar” in Russian) becomes “The Dare,” and so on.