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LiteratEye #45: How to Keep That New Year’s Resolution? Take It Along to a Desert Island

Filed under: Literary Hoaxes

Here’s the forty-fifth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

LiteratEye #45: How to Keep That New Year’s Resolution? Take It Along to a Desert Island
By W.J. Elvin III
January 1, 2010

viewoftown-copia-200Happy New Year to all, especially to those who’ve signed on as friends at the Art of the Prank site on Facebook – it’s intriguing to see some of the people you’re writing to, or to try to guess who might be behind that weird picture.

So, have you made a resolution never to do that again, whatever that was? Good luck. Probably the only way to keep your resolution is to go live on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe.

But then, Robinson Crusoe is a literary character, he never really existed. As mentioned in LiteratEye #22, the story is based largely on the adventures of Alexander Selkirk, marooned on the island then known as Aguas Buenas, off the coast of Chile.

It is now officially Robinson Crusoe Island.

Daniel Defoe took a lot of heat for deception because he presented the book as a true memoir, the work of Crusoe.

Even to this day he takes heat for it, as evidenced in Nicholson Baker’s comments in the Columbia Journalism Review: “Robinson Crusoe is Defoe’s most famous hoax. We describe it as a novel, of course, but it wasn’t born that way. On its 1719 title page, the book was billed as the strange, surprising adventures of a mariner who lived all alone for eight-and-twenty years on an uninhabited island, ‘Written by H I M S E L F’-and people at first took this claim for truth and bought thousands of copies.”

Baker passes along a quote from early Defoe biographer William Minto: “He was a great, a truly great liar, perhaps the greatest liar that ever lived.” (more…)

Prank Traditions

Filed under: Satire, The History of Pranks

Submitted by Tim Jackson:

A great prank? As it was 208 years ago, I thought I’d mention it…

swift_modest_proposal1-100I’ve often thought of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public” as a great early satire as prank.

dog3-100Not dissimilar to the Joey Skaggs dog food restaurant hoax/satire.

pr3404-t9_00007-100I just heard about Daniel Defoe’s “The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church” written on July 31, in 1701. His satire called for the savage elimination of dissenters. When the church found out it was parody, he was (allegedly) pilloried. The crowd threw flowers instead of fruit.

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