This post got triggered by the author of one of the websites I’m following who purposely broke up an ordinary text in pieces and presented it as a poem while illustrating this with a couple of pictures of some stupid gadgets in beautiful frames that were labeled as art. It was intended as a hoax, so no bad blood there.
Let’s start by admitting that all fiction has a little bit of a hoax into it; all of it a ruse, a trick, a mirage, a lie, a swindle, a fabrication, a forgery. It’s an art who lies in the hope of revealing some truths. So what sets the literary hoax separate from the rest of fiction?
The oldest hoaxes are those who falsely attribute a certain text to an imaginative or real deceased author. What grates me is that some of them are pulled off by scholars, thus polluting the pond of literary research. Like James Macpherson of the University of Edinburgh who published in 1760 The Poems of Osian, supposedly the son of the mythic Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhail. Ossian inspired figures as varied as Goethe, Berlioz, Thoreau, and Mendelssohn. In 1894, a well-respected avant-garde poet, Pierre Louÿs faked the discovery of some old Greek texts to explore erotic themes that were largely off-limits in Victorian society in a book called The Songs of Bilitis.

literary hoaxes 3
Then you have the texts who pretend to contain some aesthetically, scientifically or artistically value but are nothing else than some meaningless word salad. Like Conrad Kujau who sold in 1982 a fake Hitler diary to Rupert Murdoch for millions of dollars, who enthusiastically published it. Or the way Alan Sokal revealed in 1966 the vanity of intellectual emptiness in contemporary scholarship by purposefully writing a ridiculous paper that was accepted at one of the leading journals of post-modern cultural studies.
However, the kind of hoaxes that irritate me the most, are the novels who’re exclusively written  from a commercial perspective. This was illustrated by Newsday reporters Mike McGrady and Others, who wrote purposely a book so trashy and full of smut to prove that a work could become popular just because of that. They wrote Naked Came the Stranger by “Penelope Ashe” and today the book has sold almost a half million copies. 50 Shades of Grey has in the meanwhile beaten them.

literary hoaxes 2

To round up this post, here you have a list of the top 10 literary hoaxes;
1. Jonathan Swift – Predictions for the Year 1708 (1708)
2. James MacPherson – The Works of Ossian (1765)
3. Edgar Allan Poe – The Balloon-Hoax (1844)
4. Witter Bynner and Arthur Davidson Ficke – Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments (1916)
5. Theodore Sturgeon – I, Libertine (1956)
6. JG Ballard – Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (1969)
7. Clifford Irving – Autobiography of Howard Hughes (1971)
8. Binjamin Wilkomirski – Fragments: Memories of a Childhood, 1939-1948 (1996)
9. Stewart Home – Confusion Incorporated (1999)
10. Laura Albert – Sarah (1999)

5 thoughts on “Literary Hoaxes: when fun turns into irritation.

  1. Okay so Urban, although I TOTALLY get the second half of your posts and I COMPLETELY 10028928201% AGREE that novels written with sales as the sole purpose behind them are complete and utter TRASH, I STILL don’t get what a literary hoax is? I didn’t get the post that inspired yours either! Haha..I tried to but I guess I am too dumb..*shrugs* 🤣🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The post that inspired this one is from the orange monkey; she intended it as a pun. I believe you follow this blog since you wished her happy birthday. A hoax is when you pretend of having discovered an unpublished work of a famous writer or historical personage. Or it can be a so called “scientifically work” that is just word salad dressed with some sauce of important sounding words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course!! I LOVE HER BLOG! 😍😍And I read her post too but I just…couldn’t get the sense of it really. Everybody else seemed to and that just made me feel as if I was missing out on some aspect? Now that you have told me, maybe I will give the post a re-read later.
        Okay… I think now I get it. So a hoax is when the work in question is NOT something IMPORTANT or ARTISTIC even and still there is hype around it? Yeah?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It just pretends. Take example to this sentence out of Sokal’s article “[science] cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities,” a sentence that needs a thesaurus to decipher it into meaningless. And the monkey was just joking on her birthday post (probably got some champagne), so don’t get mad at her.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I could never be mad at her!! SHE IS ONE OF THOSE BLOGS THAT I COMMENT ON INSTANTLY!!🤣🤣🤣 I was just saying!! NOW I UNDERSTAND IT!! Wow! Haha…🤣 THANK YOU SOO MUCH for explaining it! ❤️❤️

        Liked by 1 person

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