My Favourite Literary Hoaxes of All Time

Happy New Year! Let’s start it off with a bang. This post marks the blog’s first real non-book review! As a lover of lists, I believe this will be both fun and illuminating!

First things first. A ‘literary hoax’ is a catch-all term for certain types of writing and/or authorship. Such hoaxes may include fiction that’s passed off as real life, and literature attributed to someone who didn’t actually write it, among other things. Below are some of my personal favourite literary hoaxes. Are you ready to have your mind blown (or your bubble of ignorant bliss popped)? Ready or not, here we go:

Literary Hoax #1: The Princess Bride

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973

This book (or, if you’re more familiar with the movie, as I originally was before picking up the book) has it all – comedy (“Inconceivable!”), adventure (“You killed my father, prepare to die!”), fantasy (Rodents Of Unusual Size), and TWU WUV (true love, people. Get with the program). BUT! It is also a HOAX!

William Goldman, the true author of The Princess Bride, passes off the work as an abridgement of an old historical work by the (fictional) S. Morgenstern, who is just as much his own creation as Princess Buttercup herself. The hilarity of this feat is made all the more awesome by Goldman’s constant footnotes and clarifications about certain points and passages Morgenstern supposedly wrote. At one point he notes that he would have liked to go into more detail in one part, but that his editors would not allow it. Instead, he advises the reader to write to his publisher for a copy of the scene – but apparently all you’ll get is an apologetic letter stating problems with the Morgenstern estate, and therefore trouble getting the scene. HOAX!

Literary Hoax #2: Go Ask Alice

Prentice Hall, 1971

I’m really sorry about this, if you didn’t know. Go Ask Alice is not a real diary (the belief of which has made it a huge success), but a complete work of fiction. It’s author, “Anonymous”, is not a teen girl who got sucked into drugs, but a middle-aged Mormon therapist, Beatrice Sparks, who wrote a handful of other cautionary tales for teenagers, masquerading as real diaries. Sorry kids, but it’s a HOAX!

DISCLAIMER: Don’t think this means you should now do drugs. I mean it! They’re bad!

If you want a similar alternative, I recommend Evelyn Lau’s Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid. It is 100% true and just as (if not more) heart-wrenching as Go Ask Alice.

Literary Hoax(es) #3: Celebrity Authorship

In what world are the likes of Lauren Conrad, Paris Hilton, and Snooki from the Jersey Shore published fiction-writers? Ours, people! My favourite (and most maddening) literary hoax of all time has to be ghost writers in general. What’s a ghost writer? It’s someone who is paid to write a book and then give the ownership to someone else. Meaning that the name on the front cover is not necessarily the person who wrote that book! While I can’t really say for certain whether any of the young ladies I mention in this section actually used ghost writers, I do find it hard to believe that this chick

actually had the patience to sit down and write a novel. Granted, I have read the first page (out of morbid curiosity and nothing more!) and it’s not – how you say – good. Still, it’s not that impossible to believe that she could have come up with the concept and then had an editor spruce things up and pull them together. There is reasonable doubt there. But still – the image of Nicole Polizzi sitting down at her laptop to write a story just seems wrong (even if it is about such deep topics as hair poufs and ‘smushing’ beef-cakey guys all summer). So does all this:

Actually, if you've read even one passage of Tyra Banks'... imaginative novel (guilty!), this one's not hard to believe.

A sexy futuristic teenage fantasy...fine, Hilary Duff, maybe you're partly to blame for this one. I just hope your writing is better than your acting.

I question whether a hyperactive former Playboy model like Kendra Wilkinson has the ability to sit down long enough to finish her life story.

And I really question whether a teenager with a vanilla life can turn out her own page-turner.

That’s right. Miley Cyrus has a book and I don’t. We live in a cruel, cruel world.

DISCLAIMER: I’m usually not this catty. It could be that all these people really did write their own books and I’m just bitter.

Literary Hoax #4: Nancy Drew

This is a continuation of #3, wherein I vent about ghost writers. This one, however, is not quite so painful, because at least the person to whom credit is going is not even real! (Somehow it lessens the sting.)

Ever wondered how one person can write hundreds and hundreds of books? They can’t! Carolyn Keene, the ‘author’ of the Nancy Drew series is actually a collection of authors who assumed the pseudonym and wrote in the same style. That’s not so bad…it’s just sneaky!

Literary Hoax #5 and Beyond: …You be the judge!

Do you know of any great literary hoaxes? Or is something in your reading repertoire so unbelievable that you suspect something’s amok? Let me know in the comments section, and we’ll all have a laugh! (Or a cry.) Good day, and keep reading!

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6 responses

  1. Oh Debs, thank you for exposing these hoaxes! I was never too sure about the supposed longer version of the Princess Bride being real or not. I always wanted it to be, but, even though it’s not, I’m happy just to have an answer now!

    I will admit to watching last season of America’s Next Top Model, which had an episode or two where the models modelled scences from Tyra’s book. The plot sounded…. interesting. Or, perhaps a better word would be: ridiculous. Oh Tyra, how you amuse me.

    I don’t think I ever knew about the Carolyn Keene thing! Do you know if there ever was an original Carolyn Keene, or was it all a conspiracy right from the beginning?

    Even though you dislike Ghost Writers, I feel like you still might enjoy watching the show “Ghost Writer” from the 90s. It is a about a ghost that communicates with this group of kids through writing, and they solve mysteries. AND it’s educational! I haven’t watched it in years, but loved it as a child. Let the theme song convince you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS_lD9_Ur3g

    Thanks for the enlightenment Deb! Can’t wait to see all that you’ll write in this new year 🙂

  2. VC Andrews books. I was so let down to discover that VC Andrews did not write all of them. Some were unfinished works and some were from ideas that were written down. Then some were in no way connected to VC Andrews at all.

  3. Ah The Princess Brid. That particular one pissed me off. I spent several months and numerous library trips trying to find Buttercup’s Baby, the just as mqde up sequel.

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