Anonymous authors and literary deceptions

On Friday last week two library members were on the waiting list for this book.

By Monday afternoon the number had grown to over eighty, after the revelation that “Robert Galbraith” was in fact J.K. Rowling.

This got us to thinking about other literary deceptions, misdirections and anonymous author stories.

Stanislaw Lem, author of Solaris, is acknowledged as one of the great science fiction writers. But there is no such person. Not according to Philip K. Dick anyway, who wrote to the FBI in 1974:

Lem is probably a composite committee rather than an individual, since he writes in several styles and sometimes reads foreign, to him, languages and sometimes does not – to gain monopoly positions of power from which they can control opinion

You can read the letter in full on the Stanislaw Lem web site, which also asks you to keep in mind that Dick was probably suffering from schizophrenia at the time.

For about 15 years Jennie Erdal had a double existence: officially she worked as a personal editor for one particular man but in reality she was his ghost-writer and in some mysterious sense his alter ego. Ghosting reveals what it’s like to write on behalf of someone else over an extended period of time.

Many sports stars employ ghost writers to help with their memoirs, but The Secret Footballer is different.He writes an anonymous weekly newspaper column and has also produced a book. As yet identity remains unknown (although there are those who are fairly certain they know who he is).

Melissa Katsoulis’s Telling Tales (there’s that cuckoo again on the cover) is a history of literary hoaxes from Ancient Greece to modern-day Manhattan. The hoaxes are grouped by category, so there are chapters on Celebrity Testaments, Entrapment Hoaxes and Memoirs. Well worth a look.


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