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Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes

Melissa Katsoulis

8 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, Literary studies: general, Humour collections & anthologies

The ultimate readers' guide to the works that fooled publishers, readers and critics the world over

When Dionysus the Renegade faked a Sophocles text in 400BC (cunningly inserting the acrostic 'Heraclides is ignorant of letters') to humiliate an academic rival, he paved the way for two millennia of increasingly outlandish literary hoaxers. The path from his mischievous stunt to more serious tricksters like the controversial memoirist and Oprah-duper James Frey, takes in every sort of writer: from the religious zealot to the bored student, via the vengeful academic and the out-and-out joker.

But whether hoaxing for fame, money, politics or simple amusement, each perpetrator represents something unique about why we write. Their stories speak volumes about how reading, writing and publishing have grown out of the fine and private places of the past into big-business, TV-book-club-led mass-marketplaces which, some would say, are ripe for the ripping.

For the first time, the complete history of this fascinating sub-genre of world literature is revealed. Suitable for bookworms of all ages and persuasions, this is true crime for people who don't like true crime, and literary history for the historically illiterate. A treat to read right through or to dip into, it will make you think twice next time you slip between the covers of an author you don't know...

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Praise for Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes

  • Hugely enjoyable: amusing, literate, learned and perceptive ... Katsoulis is a wonderfully wise and witty cicerone through the luxuriant jungles of literary fraudulence. Telling Tales is a delight from start to finish, right down to the cheeky cover. - Sunday Times

  • This lively entertaining volume gallops through the centuries, taking in misery memoirs, pretend nuns and the Priory of Sion conspiracy. It leaves you reeling at some people's gullibility. - Daily Telegraph

  • Katsoulis revels in highlighting the most ridiculous details of the hoaxes and is especially good at showing how they suddenly took on a life of their own and escaped their creator's clutches. - Sunday Telegraph

  • Highly entertaining. - Good Book Guide

  • Irresistible ... lots to enjoy. - Wood & Vale

  • Riveting. - Daily Mail

  • A joy to read. - The Independent on Sunday

  • A brisk, breezy and hugely entertaining survey of literary hoaxes over the past couple of centuries. - Financial Times

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Melissa Katsoulis

Melissa Katsoulis is a journalist and writer. She has written for The Times, where she also worked on the books desk, the Sunday Telegraph, Financial Times, The Tablet and the Ham and High. She lives in London.

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