Saturday, July 22, 2006

Copywhiting Right

Recently, The Australian submitted the third chapter of Nobel-prize winning author Patrick White's novel, The Eye of the Storm, to ten Australian publishers. Shockingly, none of the Australian publishers managed to recognise White's incadescent genius, either instantaneously or otherwise! Some of their responses follow:

- "Alas, the sample chapter, while (written) with energy and feeling, does not give evidence that the work is yet of a publishable quality.
I suggest you get a copy of David Lodge's The Art of Fiction (Penguin) and absorb its lessons about exposition, dialogue, point of view, voice and characterisation."

- "What I read left me puzzled. I found it hard to get involved with the characters, so it was not character-driven, nor in the ideas, so it was not idea-driven. It seemed like a plot-driven novel whose plot got lost through an aspiration to be a literary novel."

- "I was trying to be polite. I thought is was pretentious fart-arsery. I don't like White".

- "If you are after critical analysis, it may be a good idea to join a writers' centre. There are centres in each state and these communities provide access to proofreaders, mentor programs and inside information about the publishing industry."

White is popularly remembered amongst Australians for having written several novels no-one has read, but which look impressive on one's bookshelf.
Astoundingly, this is not the first time such a hoax has been perpetrated. The history of literature is dotted with such scams ...

In 1673, William of Orange was accused by the English of wilfully smuggling tautologies into England from France. When asked to defend himself against these charges, William penned an eloquent epistle , stating that,

I doe deny that I have ever, in my life or during the termes of mye existence, hadde anythinge to doe with tautologies or, for thatte mattere, sentences or phrases where the same thinge is said twice!

Tensions between William and the English eventually came to a head, and caused a conflict referred to in later history as The 10 Year Decade or shortened to The Great War of Battles.

In 1793, Dr Samuel Plugge, (of the Ungleshire Plugges) submitted a literary error by Shakespeare to three literary publications: Blackwoods, The London Magazine, and The Quorgle Street Irregular. Amazingly, onle ONE publication preserved the mistake intact!

While living in Paris, James Joyce submitted a few times to an S and M mistress.
That's not actually a hoax, but I felt I should put it in anyway ...

In 1942 - several years after the death of Franz Kafka - a Polish cockroach successfully masqueraded as the paranoid author at several public events. Once it even turned up to the opera!
The error was only exposed when the cockroach submitted a completed novel to a French publisher, written entirely in Finnish - A LANGUAGE WHICH KAFKA COULD NOT SPEAK A WORD OF!
It is now thought that this hoax was not noticed simply because of the great amount of cockroaches, literal and metaphorical, running around Europe at that time.

When, in 1949, existentialist author and poet Niggle McNiggleson found his existence called into question by his own authobiographical representation of himself, he didn't know what to do! It seems that, while he had been out drinking with friends, his autobiographical "self" had been going behind his back, writing papers about the 'death of the author' and the 'unexistence of man'.
Since McNiggleson didn't know what else to do, he drank cyanide the next day. His autobiography was finished by his student and confidante, Roland Barthes ...

Despite not existing, Australian literary hoax Ern Malley had a curious afterlife. 'Ern Malley' was the name of a poet invented by writers James McCauley and Harold Stewart to fool modernist editor Max Harris.
Several years after the hoax was exposed, it seems, Ern Malley himself became the editor of a number of literary publications, which contained work by esteemed writers such as A D Hope - and even James McCauley!

In 1872, raconteur, dandy, and man-about-town Dennis de Whigg waggishly placed the words


in the middle of a book of poems. This scandalised literary audiences of his day; when they attempted to close the book, they found 50 or more sonnets falling out the back! Indeed, Lady Fauntleroy-Fauntleroy Jones was so shocked by this that she had a sudden attack of the vapours, and it took several bowls of nourishing gruel to bring her back to consciousness!

In 2004, bestselling author Bran Downe wrote a fictional work of 50,000 words - but cunningly refused to write a novel! His millions of fans failed to even notice the difference!

In 1925, Adolf Hitler somehow fooled a publisher into thinking he knew what he was talking about!



Don Quixote said...

In defense of the final publisher, dissent wasn't exactly a healthy option.

TimT said...

I think Mein Kampf would have been first published in 1925 or thereabouts, probably just after Hitler got out of jail. The publisher could have got away with it ...

Jellyfish said...

While living in Paris, James Joyce submitted a few times to an S and M mistress. That's not actually a hoax, but I felt I should put it in anyway ...

*giggles uncontrollably*

TimT said...


Email: timhtrain - at -

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