Telling Tales, By Melissa Katsoulis

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The Independent Culture

Melissa Katsoulis's entertaining account of literary hoaxes from the ancient world to the present day covers all three main kinds of hoax: the "genuine" hoax, that is to say the hoax that was never intended to be discovered (the Hitler diaries, the Ossian poems); the mock hoax, where a writer adopts a persona to create a new literary voice, such as James Norman Hall's invention of the 10-year-old poet Fern Gravel; and, most deliciously of all, the entrapment hoax, perpetrated to make a fool of a specific target.

Among the latter are the Ern Malley poems, which took the Australian literary world by storm in the 1930s; Alan Sokal's placing of an essay full of scientific-sounding gibberish with the postmodern cultural-studies journal Social Text to expose the intellectual pretensions of the "pomo" crowd; and Bevis Hiller's stupendous hoax on his rival, Betjeman biographer AN Wilson, inveigling him into publishing a spurious love letter which acrostically spelt out "AN Wilson is a shit."

The book could have been better proof-read (neither Katsoulis nor her editor knows what "enervated" means) but apart from that, it's a joy to read.