LiteratEye #8: Categorizing Castaneda

Here’s the eighth 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 #8: Categorizing Castaneda
By W.J. Elvin III
April 3, 2009

461707139_7b2160a8ba_o-200This column was going to be a subjective list of the top twenty false memoirs of the modern era, but I got sidetracked thinking about that man of mystery and mischief, Carlos Castaneda.

Literary detectives tend to lump Castaneda in with fakers like James Frey, J.T. Leroy, Norma Khouri and various other fraudsters and hoaxers. Some have been “featured artists” in this column and others are backstage awaiting their cue.

The slippery standard they are judged by is “authenticity.” The way the critics see it is that if you say your book is true, well, then it shouldn’t be a big stinking heap of bullshit.

On the other hand, you have those appalled by “radical individualism,” their contention being that if there is cultural truth in the book then it’s not a con. Those waters get awfully deep and theoretical.

At a depth I can handle, the debate is about whether to judge Castaneda as a scholarly anthropologist obliged to operate within certain narrow professional standards. Continue reading “LiteratEye #8: Categorizing Castaneda”