“It was all too easy,” he said. “It all went too smoothly. America, you sit there, you plump beauty, still buying neckties from sidewalk sharpies, still guessing which walnut shell contains the pea… America, I sometimes worry about you.”
Sad but true words from Mike Mc Grady, whose 1966 hoax was inspired by the success of trashy sex novels (think Jaqueline Susann and Harold Robbins). He recruited 24 writers to collaborate on a deliberately terrible sexy book warning them, “Fine writing will be expurgated”.
In two weeks they produced Naked Came The Stranger – and you guessed it, it was an insane success, even more so when it was revealed that it was a hoax.
The chapter on Literary Hoaxes in The Madman’s Library is full of good stuff. Fake news was alive and well in 1874, when the New York Herald carried this report:
And then there was the Comte de Fortsas Affair in 1840, when rare book dealers from all over Europe descended on a small Belgian town to bid for a magnificent private library, containing previously unknown works of immense value and some scandalously indecent ones about Louis XIV’s bottom (illustrations included). The only problem was that nobody in the town had ever heard of the Comte, his library or the auction. The catalogue for the sale has now become a collector’s item itself.
If literary hoaxes aren’t your thing, how about Books That Aren’t Books, Books Made of Flesh and Blood, Books Of Spectacular Size, or Strange Titles?
There are hours of harmless fun in The Madman’s Library. It’s a very handsome book, too. It would make a great gift for the right person.