Jane Sullivan in the Age takes a look at the new Rough Guide to the topic edited by Michaela Bushell, Helen Rodiss and Paul Simpson and also Cult Fiction: A Reader's Guide by Andrew Calcutt and Richard Shephard. (Both of which I now want to buy!)
and her own definition works fine for me:
Whatever it is, cult fiction makes the heart beat faster. You discover it by accident, or word of mouth. You love this work, you're excited and disturbed by it, it speaks to you in a way nothing else does, and you're convinced you're the only person who gets it. ... Gradually you discover there are other like-minded nuts out there, and the cult is born. At some point, it may become so huge that it ceases to be a cult (think of Kerouac or Tolkien), but the thrill of belonging to an exclusive club is still there.She mentions the cult novels and authors of her youth, which were the cult novels of my (quite long ago) youth too: Hermann Hesse, J. G. Ballard, John Fowles and Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Ahh ... but that was the 1970's, all idealism, belief in transcendence and looking for the meaning of life ...
So which books would you consider "cult" ... and do you think that the term is still valid in the same way? (Do the younger generations get their subversive kicks this way anyway?)
Here are a few titles tagged "cult fiction" by readers on LibraryThing to get you started.