"How cunning?" I hear you say.
So cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel. That cunning.
I noticed from the last post that not many people like Bryce Courteney. I'm one of the Anti-Bryce Club. I'm not entirely sure how Mr Courteney sells books, actually. My theory is that everyone thinks their mum likes him and buys the latest book as a Christmas gift. (Not a present, a gift. As in something contained in a gift shop.) Mums are too unassuming to say, "Oh for fuck's sake! Stop buying me this tripe!" so Mr Courteney keeps selling his over-adjectived tear-jerky bits of squiff.
As far as I can see, the only thing the guy has in his favour is that he's South African by birth. Being a Saffie means many sins are forgiven because most of the guys are extremely hot. Not Bryce, of course. He's a tool. And so is JM Coetzee. But most of the others are way hot.
Sorry, the cunning plan? Yes, it's very cunning. You'll love it.
As much as I loathe Bryce Courteney and his ilk, I adore a good literary hoax. I'm not sure what I love more: seeing one uncovered or seeing one perpetrated and then revealed by the perpetrators. I think it's probably the latter, since Ern Malley is my favourite literary hoax ever. "Sting them, my anopheles, sting them!" I didn't think it was quite fair to prosecute Max Harris and the Angry Penguins for obsecenity, but at least he ended up with the copyright to the poems for his trouble.
I've followed many a literary hoax with great pleasure. Helen Demidenko/Darville/whatever-the-hell-she-calls-herself-these-days was possibly my least favourite, largely because she won a prize and she just annoyed me with her superior attitude and Aryan blondeness. But that made me enjoy it all the more when she was found out, so I guess it's those swings and roundabouts again. I didn't really care one way or another about A Thousand Tiny Pieces or Forbidden Love because I hadn't read either of them and if people were shallow enough to buy a book only because they thought it was a true story, then sucks be to them. I have no sympathy. Sting them, etc., etc.
I think I take the greatest pleasure from the literary hoaxes perpetrated on the publishing industry. Stirrers have made very minor changes to chapters of Patrick White, Charles Dickens and, most recently, Jane Austen and sent them to publishers to see whether they would recognise and accept them. Naturally, most of the publishing people have failed to recognise the chapters and rejected them as being dated and not at all what they were looking for. Though I think one of the Jane Austen victims did raise questions over plagiarism, so more power to them. So well done, those people.
But I also rather enjoy playing Devil's advocate. So, in the publishers' defence, these books have been sent to them unsolicited and as a consequence, landed on their slush piles. Slush piles are often huge stacks of paper and are dealt with by people who are either quite junior or by the more senior as a form of penance. You know, like jamming red-hot pokers up one's nose. As I understand it, the slush pile usually contains dull-as-dust memoirs, shitful sci-fi and speculative fiction and barely disguised rip-offs of The Da Vinci Code or the other Latest Big Thing. Only very rarely is there gold in the slush and reading through the dross may be even more demoralising then covering local council meetings for a suburban newspaper or writing advertorial.
So, back to the cunning plan. It's my theory that writers like Bryce Courteney get away with twaddle only because of their marketable names. "Hey, he wrote The Power of One, right? No, don't edit it! No, don't read it either! Just publish it! At Christmas!"
I'd love to take chapters of Bryce Courteney, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown, Tom Clancy and Barbara Cartland and send them into publishers under a nom de plume. Well, I suppose strictly it would be a nom de guerre, as it is a war on rubbish writing. But I'd love to see the comments. Would they run to things such as, "Potboiler. Start again." Or even, "You can't write. Please learn what an adjective is and stop using so many! Oh, and make your blasted tenses agree." Or perhaps, "Turgid crap. Never contact us again." Or what about, "'Alternate' and 'alternative' are not interchangeable. That is all."
Oh Ford, I'd love to do it! Getting people to refuse White and Austen and Dickens is like shooting fish in a barrel in a way, because their styles are now considered to be dated and have too many commas. But taking down the big guns as decided by Anus and Robertson - now that would be fun.