An annotated novel is a book-length dramatic narrative for which marginal comments have been added to explain, interpret, or illuminate words, phrases, themes, or other elements of the text. The annotated novel is a secular parallel to the variety of older annotated Bibles in which scholars provide historical, theological, cultural, or other illuminations of the Biblical text.
Some of the books that have been annotated recently include:
- Michael Patrick Hearn's annotations to Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Michael Patrick Hearn's annotations to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
- Martin Gardner's annotations to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass
- Leslie S. Klinger's annotations to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes
- Douglas A. Anderson's annotations to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.
Some annotations are brief, requiring only one or a few sentences. Others are lengthy, continuing for one or more pages. Normally, the novel's text occupies the center of the page, and the annotations, which are keyed numerically to the words and phrases with which they are associated, run down the left side of the left page and down the right side of the right page. However, sometimes the annotations appear at the bottom of both pages, as in The New Schofield Reference Bible and The Riverside Shakespeare.
Here is a sample annotation, from The Hobbit, which references Tolkien's description of a mountain trek that his characters undertake in Chapter 6 of his novel: "This passage again recalls Tolkien's 1911 walking tour of Switzerland."
Through the Looking-glass
A second sample is from Carroll's Through the Looking-glass, Chapter 6 and references the author's statement that "Humpty Dumpty was sitting with his legs crossed like a Turk": "Neither Tenniel nor Newell, Everett Bleiler points out in a letter, show Humpty sitting with his legs crossed, a position which would make his perch more precarious."
A Christmas Carol
Hearn explains that he annotated Dickens' A Christmas Carol in honor of his father's memory, his father having been the one to have introduced Hearn to the author's masterpiece about Christmas. In preparation for this project, Hearn researched the text of the book as well as the life and times of its author extensively, learning that, as he said during an interview, Dickens undertook a schedule of reading tours despite his declining health not only for the money that such a tour would earn for him but also because "Dickens was a ham and craved the public's attention and affection. It was not enough for him to be the most popular novelist of his age. He needed the immediate approval of an audience's response." According to Hearn:
- Dickens needed to see the bright faces of his public and hear their laughter and their applause. No other writer of his stature had tried that before, to go directly to the people. In his day, the press severely attacked him for making a public spectacle of himself. He was accused of denigrating literature. Of course, today writers cannot sell a book without putting themselves on display. Dickens, unlike some pretentious lesser novelists, would have been happy to appear on "Oprah."
Concerning criticism, Dickens took a philosophical approach, Hearn divulges, having demonstrated to fellow writer Hans Christian Andersen "how criticism was like writing in the dirt and just as easily wiped away" .