What was this oversized 20th century american novel?
January 5, 2013 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Another episode of Ask Metafilter, book-title detectives.

I'm trying to remember the name of a novel that I saw in a bookstore that was in a remarkably large format - more the size and shape of a Encyclopedia Britannica volume than a normal novel. It may have had the word 'book' within the title. The author was a critically respected but not very prolific man - this novel (or perhaps a small series of which this book was a part) was, at least according to his wikipedia page at the time, essentially his entire lifetime literary output. I also remember that he died in the late 20th or early 21st century, at a fairly old age, and that he was a Harvard alum.
posted by kickingtheground to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Something by William Gaddis?
posted by mlle valentine at 6:14 PM on January 5, 2013

Nope. Definitely someone significantly less well-known.
posted by kickingtheground at 6:52 PM on January 5, 2013

Approximately when did you see this novel in stores? At that time, did you get the impression it was a new book, out on display, or when you saw it had it already been out for a good while? In what country were you when you saw it? Was it a hardcover or paperback book? Can you remember any physical characteristics of the cover (color, images)? Can you remember where the book was shelved (i.e. beginning or end of author alphabet)? Can you remember phrases in the Wikipedia entry that you could search for?
posted by nicebookrack at 7:23 PM on January 5, 2013

Could this be the old Modern Library edition of the USA Trilogy by Dos Passos?
posted by Malla at 7:28 PM on January 5, 2013

The book was in new condition, but didn't appear to be a new release. There was only one copy on the shelf. This was maybe 2-3 years ago (recently enough that I could wikipedia the author on my smartphone in-store) and in the US. It was a hardcover, and, as I mentioned, very large - the binding felt very high quality, almost as though it were an art/design book, rather than fiction. It may have even had a cardboard protective case. It was expensive, but not shockingly so (maybe $50?). The cover design was just the title, in a large sans-serif font, on a solid (red? orange? brown?) background. All I remember from the author's biography, other than what I mentioned in the original question, was that he lived as an adult with his family in a small village or in the country (in the northern US - OH? NH? VT?). The book may have been a chronicle of a fictional small town (but this wasn't Winesburg, OH). I don't think it was a short story collection, or a cycle of novels in one volume - just one very large novel.

Not Dos Passos.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:49 PM on January 5, 2013

Oh, and the title may have been in the format "The * Book" or "The *-book," where * was some other word.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:54 PM on January 5, 2013

This sounds an awful lot like sublime oddball Jonathan Bayliss - one of whose novels was Gloucesterbook - although as far as I can tell none of his books was ever issued in hardcover.
posted by dyoneo at 9:53 PM on January 5, 2013

Gloucesterbook was definitely what I was thinking of, though I appear to have mixed up some of the details with some other book.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:14 PM on January 5, 2013

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