A Brief History of Literary Hoaxes

Author and activist Greg Mortenson, whose acclaimed book Three Cups of Tea has been a perennial bestseller, recently admitted that the story was “more of a fairy tale.” In the book, Mortenson chronicled his experiences as a mountain climber, and tells of how he was injured during a climb in Pakistan. He was taken in by local villagers and, when he recovered, he vowed to build girls’ schools in the country as a thank-you. Sadly, Mortenson is not the only author to pass off fiction as fact.

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    • Christian

      Great list, Lilit. Makes me wonder what kind of reception these books would have gotten if they were published as straight-up fiction (probably wouldn’t have been published, I’d guess) – and in LeRoy’s case, if Laura Albert had done it under her own name. I read The Heart is Deceitful and A Million Little Pieces after the authors had come forward about the fiction of their work, and actually enjoyed reading both, and thought Albert and Frey to be decent story tellers (who took deserved criticism for misleading readers about authorship and personal history). I guess the hook of the author back story is what sells these things (except for Go Ask Alice, obviously). But beyond that back story, the final read has to be enjoyable for me to even care whether I’m being lied to about the person telling the story…