Fiction Titles mentioned within fiction

Just the other day, my precious copy of “The Third Man” arrived on Blu-ray in the mail. This is a personal favorite movie of mine, and often judged a classic. In the movie, the protagonist, an author named Holly Martins, reluctantly gives a talk to a literary society. While there, in a confrontation with sinister figures asking questions, he boldly states that his next book will be “The Third Man”, a murder story, based on fact. This is of course the title of the movie itself. The third man referred to in the title is in fact integral to the plot. He is a mysterious third man seen carrying off a body, and yet later on no one can account for who he was, or why he was there. It has even more import, but I don’t wish to completely spoil the film for those who have not seen it.

While the names of works of fiction are often taken from the work itself, and sometimes by the dialog of characters in the work themselves, it seems to me that it is rare* that a character names a work of fiction he is in, as a way of describing his own story. While not quite shattering the third wall of fiction, it does seem almost ‘meta-conscious’ that the character seems to acknowledge he is in a story.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this idea? Feel free to flame me if your thoughts are "what an idiot’, I don’t mind any sort of response. Have I overestimated how rare this is based on my own personal tastes? Does anyone have any good or amusing examples of this occurring in other works? Keep in mind since I’m talking about the broad category of ‘fiction’ we are dealing with written, film, television, theatrical, Opera and gods know what else, a simple site might not be useful to those not knowledgeable about the medium without a little bit of background.

Thanks for your time,
AllFree

  • I did think of a prominent exception, I believe many of the Sherlock Holmes stories were named by Dr. Watson within the story itself.

John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor is about Ebeneezer Cooke who, toward the end of the book, writes the poem “The Sot-Weed Factor.” The poem* mentions many of the events of the novel.

Barth’s story “Lost in the Funhouse” has the main character getting lost in a funhouse, so he imagines a story called “Lost in the Funhouse” as a way to figure his way out.

There are probably other examples among Barth’s stories and novels.

In The Drowsy Chaperone, the Man in the Chair is playing a record of the Broadway musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. Occasionally, he interacts with the characters in the musical (which is, at least in part, his own wish-fulfillment fantasy).

While not exactly what you’re looking for, the opening line of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has Finn saying he was in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

*There was a real Ebeneezer Cooke, and he did write a poem by that name.

Robert Chambers’ story *The King In Yellow *may qualify since it revolves around an evil play with the same name.

I’d love to find the works of Jerzy Hacek from Vernor Vinge’s RainbowsEnd.

The novelization of “Dr. Strangelove” mentions that it is one of a series called “The Dead Worlds of Antiquity.”

There is a Jack Vance s-f/mystery novel called The Book of Dreams. One of the plot points in the story is a book written by one of the characters which is also called The Book of Dreams.

The title of the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou comes from a fictional movie being made within real movie, Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels.

In Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, F. Alexander, the victim of Alex’s gang attack who later takes him in, is the author of a book titled A Clockwork Orange.

In Spaceballs, Dark Helmet puts in a tape of Spaceballs to see what happens.

More John Barth: Though he doesn’t actually use the name (the reader, though, will automatically fill it in), at the end of Chimera, the characters see that their story is a work of fiction called Chimera.

By definition, in Borges’s “The Library of Babel” the library contains the story “The Library of Babel.”

There was an old SF story I read years ago based upon the “Monkeys typing Shakespeare” concept. Using a computer and randomization, actual works are fiction are recreated. In the end, they narrator discovers the first few lines of the story he is in.

In The Bridges of Madison County, the protagonist is working on an article with that title, though the article doesn’t really describe the book.

Irving Wallace’s The Seven Minutes was about a book called The Seven Minutes, a work that sets off an obscenity trial. The book in the book is only referred to and has a complete different story (about the thoughts going through a woman’s mind during sex).

The musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has the main character following tips from a book by that name.

“A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” is neither a short history of tractors nor in Ukrainian, but a fictional story during the course which one of the main characters writes “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian”, which is a short history of tractors, in Ukrainian.

“Adpatation” might fit perfectly here, but I can’t recall if they ever give that name to the film-within-a-film

In “The Neverending Story,” the Child-like Empress says that Bastian has been with Atreyu along his journy, just as others have been with Bastian on his journey (ie, us, the watchers of the movie,) ans she implies others are watching our tale, and that all of this is part of “The Neverending Story.” So at some point, it must be recursive and the residents of Fantasia are watching someone, who is watching someone, who is watching someone watch them…or something. :confused:

Kathy Reichs wrote a series of books about Temperance Btrennen.
In the TV series “Bones,” based on Reiches’s maun character. Brennen has written a series of books about fictional Kathy Reichs.

And of course the entire *Lord of the Rings *is a transcription of the works collected by Bilbo and Frodo in “THE DOWNFALL OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS AND THE
RETURN OF THE KING,” although it is also sometimes knows as the Red Book of Westmarch.

Likewise, *The Hobbit *was based on Bilbo’s book, There and Back Again, A Hobbit’s Holiday.

Tim Dorsey’s The Stingray Shuffle is pretty recursive. It’s also pretty surreal, which is why it makes perfect sense that the characters are all reading a book called The Stingray Shuffle with the same plot as what’s actually happening.

With my user name, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which is also the name of the [del]MacGuffin[/del] movie at the center of the “plot”.

In many Dean Koontz books, the author quotes The Book of Counted Sorrows. Many fans spent lots of time looking for a copy of the book, but Koontz had made it up.

Later, IIRC, Koontz did publish (online?) a couple of editions of the book. But that was a book based on the made up title and snippets he’d used for years as a background in his fictional universe.

Here’s a whole bunch of fiction within other fiction. See the “Answers” link at the top for the, um, answers.

This is from memory, but don’t many of the chapters of Asimov’s *Foundation Trilogy *begin with quotes from The Encyclopedia Galactica, a tome the writing of which plays heavily in the story?

And with this group, I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe which features a book of the same name.

I think maybe a point of clarification on the OP is in order - while there are many examples of fiction within fiction, I think what the OP is asking for are examples of self-referential fiction within fiction, of which there have been a few great examples submitted.

I guess the one example I can think of is Labyrinth - so far as I know, the book Labyrinth that Sarah reads in the beginning is completely fictional.

I was going to say The Princess Bride, for similar reasons, but I was missing the obvious - the movie being framed as a reading of the actual book, which of course isn’t fictional.

The works of Jasper Fforde seem to qualify, particularly his “Nursery Crimes” series. Interplay with other works of fiction is the entire point of both the Nursery Crime and Thursday Next series.