Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hoaxes and the Nature of Literature

Former English Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman claimed late in Life that his one regret was not having had more sex. So, naturally, biographer A.N. Wilson was thrilled when, in the course of researching a new book on Betjeman , he received a copy of a passionate love letter supposedly written by Sir John to a mistress.

The letter was addressed to Honor Tracy, an Anglo-Irish writer with whom Betjeman worked at the Admiralty during WWII. It began as follows:

Darling Honor, I loved yesterday. All day I’ve thought of nothing else. No other love I’ve had means so much.

and continued:

...love has given me a miss for so long and now this miracle has happened. Sex is a part of it, of course.

and concluded:

Tinkerty-tonk, my Darling. I pray I’ll hear from you tomorrow. If I don’t I’ll visit your office in a fake beard. All love, JB

However, the letter has proven to be a hoax, the give-away being that, when you look at the capitalized letters at the beginning of each line, they spell out the words AN Wilson is a shit.

Mr. Wilson's rival Betjemen scholars are all denying responsibility for this prank.

Funny stuff, and only one of several literary hoaxes that have been uncovered during the course of 2006. For example:

...there was acclaimed writer JT LeRoy, who turned out not to be a transgendered, 25-year-old HIV-positive former prostitute, but a 40 year old punk rocker, porn writer, and phone sex operator named Laura Albert.

...there was Nasdijj, who was not only not Navajo, as he claimed, but had an earlier career writing gay porn novels with titles like The Mineshaft under the name of Tim Barrus.

...and, most famously, there was James Frey, whose mega-best-selling memoir A Million Little Pieces proved to be almost entirely fictional.

Frey's case is the most interesting, because of what it says about the nature of Fiction vs. Auto-Biography. This guy sold two million copies of AMLP before its inaccuracies were exposed on The Smoking Gun. He was then denounced on live television by no less a personage than Oprah, and reamed out afterwards by his publisher. Nevertheless, the book went on to sell another two million copies!

And what it says about the nature of Fiction etc. is that nowadays you are allowed to lie in your memoirs! Which is great! That means, when I come to write the autobiography of BigCityLib, I can get laid more often!

I mean, in Wilt Chamberlain's autobiography, A View From Above, the former basketball great claimed to have had sex with 20,000 different women while playing in the NBA. If you amortize all that out over the course of his long basketball career, and exclude repeat performances, that comes out to about 1.2 women per day, everyday.

If Wilt can accomplish that in his memoir, I should at least be able to work my way into double digits in mine.

That's it for now. Busy day ahead.

PS. Kinsella, where are you boyo? Emerge from the swamp so I can have someone to denounce over the long weekend.

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