How To Tell If You’re In a Novel

Quick strategies for figuring out what novel you’re currently trapped in.

  1. J.E. Reich's previous work for The Toast can be found here. The concepts of lightness and weight are very important to you. You refuse to buy a scale. Every time you have sex in a bowler hat -- which is often -- you are struck with nostalgia concerning your Bohemian grandfather, who was also a mayor before the war. (Which war? THE War, of course.) You frequently compare your wife to a baby found…

  2. Your narrative shifts from past to present to past again for no discernible reason.

    You have managed to convince your husband you were not cheating on him by showing him a bathtub. You are also cheating on him. Everything works out.

    You are a rooster that has a deeply complicated personal relationship with an emerald you found in the dirt.

    You are, frankly, belaboring your point.

  3. Previously in this series.

    You are poor, bright, and beautiful, but you never feel quite bright or beautiful enough because your best friend is brighter and beautifuller.

    Your best friend has never forgiven you for being the first to experience menarche or being allowed to progress beyond primary school. Ever since, she’s been competing with you over just about everything.

    You feel an unnameable, shameful aversion to

  4. A disrespectful maiden becomes your only friend after you kill the man who kidnapped the other man who killed her first boyfriend.

    Sir Kay is taunting you.

    Your story has broken off, unfinished.

    You successfully defend yourself against accusations of having slept with your lord's wife. You have, but you find a way to protest your innocence without actually lying, so God helps you murder your completely justified accusers, most of whom are Cornish.

  5. Previously in this series.

    As a child, you found yourself in a near constant state of existential threat, often caused by your parents' party guests or abnormal creatures you met on bicycle rides.

    One day, when you are sitting down to tea, you are surprised to read in the paper that a once-thought-to-be-dead great aunt has caused a scandal in the capital city of a small European country you

  6. Previously in this series.

    Upon departing for a seaside resort with your grandmother and cook, you have become almost completely indifferent to your first love, who is already just as, if not more, indifferent to you.

    At a crossroads in front of three trees you may or may not have seen before, a carriage whisks you far away from what you believe is the only truth, from what

  7. Previously in this series

    You are a man: a worthy warrior, a hard-hearted hero, a mighty mail-warrior, a sturdy spear-bearer, a resolute retainer, an eager earl, a fierce-minded fighter, a stalwart soldier...

    You deliver both insults and speeches exclusively in tight alliterative verse.

    You are a pagan, and this is very sad.

    You are a Christian, but in a suitably Germanic way.


  8. Previously in this series.

    Your household is stunningly average.

    The same goes for your entire family aside from one eccentric relative who’s always up to something kooky.

    Your parents don’t like when you visit that relative for extended periods. You’ve never figured out why ... until now.

    You’re easy to read.

    There’s something peculiar about your neighbor/best friend/substitute teacher/piano instructor/school crossing guard/primary care physician/babysitter/county

  9. Previously in this series.  You are a woman of modest means, yet you only seem to date men who own hotels. You are a nice girl who knows exactly one nice guy. You forget about him a lot, but gosh, he sure is nice. Whoever he is. You spend roughly 35% of your day sitting in fashionable cafés having very intense conversations. You own like three Samsung Galaxy S6s and so do all your friends.

  10. Previously in this series.  You are being talked about. It is very disagreeable. You are not being talked about. It is even more disagreeable. You have sinned, and sinned greatly in the eyes of the world, out of a most desperate love. No matter how dreadful the occasion, you manage to keep your cuffs un-buttered and your cravat un-spoilt. To be bankrupt of morals is forgivable, but to be bankrupt of style is not.

  11. Previously in this series.

    You grow up in a family that is aristocratic, but on such a limited budget as to be able to employ no more than a cook, a parlor-maid, a housemaid, a kitchen maid, a nanny and a nursemaid. The family pays for the nanny by keeping a flock of several hundred chickens and selling the eggs in town. Other budgeting measures include an absolute ban on the

  12. Previously in this series: How To Tell If You're In a Dostoevsky Novel.

    You and your husband are having separate affairs and it’s very pragmatic.

    Your parents were really hoping for a son instead of a daughter, which is why they named you Brucey.

    All of your meals are carried on trays.

    Most of your days are spent going uptown. Uptown from where is

  13. Previously in this series. You love a prostitute with your whole heart but you respect her too much to touch her, talk to her, or learn her name. You are in love with an earnest, loyal young man who adores you, so you've decided to marry a dissolute cad you despise in order to teach yourself a lesson. You've been sitting in this tavern for hours hoping no one notices your clothes are covered…

  14. Previously in this series. Thou hast a plucky band of friends who alleviate the great drama of thy life with their witticisms. Alas, they will later be horribly killed thanks to their prior association with thee. Thou not only tellest sad stories of the death of kings, thou liv’st it. Thy mentor is a drunkard or dead. Thy wife is a metaphor for colonialism. Thou hast put new meaning into the term “kissing cousins.”…

  15. Previously in this series.

    You’re a Manhattanite, of course.

    Your mother and father are both alive, but you keep thinking of them in the past tense.

    You used to be married, but it seems you’re not anymore. No one, including you, knows whether you’re actually divorced.

    Your parents cry when they think of you taking the subway.