Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-Opening History of Famous Frauds

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Overview


When Dionysus the Renegade faked a Sophocles text in 400 BC (cunningly inserting the acrostic “Heraclides is ignorant of letters”) to humiliate an academic rival, he paved the way for two millennia of increasingly outlandish literary hoaxers. The path from his mischievous stunt to more serious tricksters like the fake Howard Hughes “autobiography” by Clifford Irving, Oprah-duper James Frey, takes in every sort of writer: from the religious zealot to the bored student, via the vengeful academic and the out-and-out joker.

But whether hoaxing for fame, money, politics, or simple amusement, each perpetrator represents something unique about why we write. Their stories speak volumes about how reading, writing, and publishing have grown out of the fine and private places of the past into big-business, TV-book-club-led mass-marketplaces which, some would say, are ripe for the ripping.

For the first time, the complete history of this fascinating sub-genre of world literature is revealed. Suitable for bookworms of all ages and persuasions, this is true crime for people who don’t like true crime, and literary history for the historically illiterate. A treat to read right through or to dip into, it will make you think twice next time you slip between the covers of an author you don’t know . . .

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Editorial Reviews

David Pitt - Booklist
“[A]n excellent and informative survey of a fascinating and often newsworthy subject.”
Publishers Weekly
With well-researched irony and straight-faced humor, British writer Katsoulis pulls the covers off of several notorious literary frauds, tracing the art of the Big Lie from Dionysius the Renegade, who wrote a fake Sophocles play that insulted his Stoic teachers, to more modern publishing pranks. Katsoulis writes of “the amazing lengths to which people will go to practice a deception, and the sheer nonsense gullible readers are willing to swallow,” posing a quest for fame or fortune as the motive behind such popular hoaxes as 1983's The Hitler Diaries. In the 1990s, Lex Cusack tried to raise his late father's reputation by asserting his father had advised JFK and claiming to have found shocking letters by the president among his father's paper; similarly, William Ireland in the 1790s sought his bibliophile father's approval with his faked Shakespeare documents. Katsoulis also blasts those who seek to make a profit on the suffering and death of the Holocaust in her blistering account of fake memoirs. For those intrigued by the notion of literary hoaxes, this is an entertaining guide. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602397941
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Melissa Katsoulis has written for The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sunday Telegraph and Financial Times. She lives in England.
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