What makes a cult book? It’s a hoary old chestnut and hard to pin down. The latest commentators to have a bash at defining Cult Classics are the team at The Telegraph in the UK with their 50 best cult books. They get tangled up in defining a cult classic, but end up with this:
In compiling our list, we were looking for the sort of book that people wear like a leather jacket or carry around like a totem. The book that rewires your head: that turns you on to psychedelics; makes you want to move to Greece; makes you a pacifist; gives you a way of thinking about yourself as a woman …
There’s the usual suspects – Catch-22, The Catcher in the Rye, Dune (he he) and the comments field is a jungle of suggestions, objections, and just plain orneriness.
And this kind of fevered debate is just what you’d expect from a discussion of cult books – I’d say a good definition is a book that inspires a devotion and almost religious fervour in its admirers – and a similarly loathing in others, writing that takes on a life and symbolism beyond the page.
Here’s a couple of cult authors/titles I’d like to throw into the mix:
J T Leroy – The Heart is deceitful above all things and Sarah created a stir when they came out. Their lowkey lowlife transgressive meanderings were very readable and touched with autobiographical authenticity. As blogged previously, it turned out the narrator wasn’t a crossdressing teenage hustler, but its cult appeal might endure.
American Psycho Bret Easton Ellis. It’s gruesome and clever and probably the most disturbing book of fiction I’ve ever read. Don’t read if you are at all squeamish. It was made into a movie starring Christian Bale, and this wonderful business card scene gives an indication of the awful Gordon Gekko-ness of it all.
See our list of cult reading for more ideas.
Any you’d like to add?