The hottest literary movement in American history is getting even hotter! As my readers might have noticed, for several weeks now I have been banging the drums for Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen Ambrose, Michael Bellesiles, winner of this past year’s Bancroft Prize for history, David Brock, and a dozen of so journalists — some of them Pulitzer Prize nominees — who compose a cutting-edge movement in American belles lettres that bids fare to take its place with the Angry Young Men, the Symbolists, and the Existentialists as an historic breakthrough in the otherwise dull world of literature. Never before in American history have so many distinguished writers employed (in a “constructive” fashion) plagiarism, fabricated evidence, no evidence at all!, and literary hoaxing, for artistic purposes. I have dubbed this movement of celebrated American writers the New Charlatans.
Now there is a new entry into this group employing a new technique, not necessarily a writing technique but a promotional technique. And you know how important promotional technique has been to the aforementioned geniuses. The writer is another Pulitzer nominee, David A. Vise, winner of a 1990 Pulitzer for financial reportage. Did he learn a lot covering finance! Kenneth Lay and Gary Winnick have nothing on Vise. He is the author of “The Bureau and the Mole: The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen,” a bestseller; and do you know how Vise made it a bestseller? Beyond his breathless reportage and lurid sex reports, Vise pushed his book up the charts by purchasing upwards of 18,000 copies of his own book from the on-line bookseller, Barnesandnoble.com. He then returned the books in what the “Washington Post” describes as a “confusing series of transactions.” Very demurely the “Post” reports that Vise has provoked “suspicions” in publishing circles that he was attempting to inflate his sales figures.
Suspicions? The genius admits that “I wanted to generate buzz and word of mouth about the book.” Well, perhaps the “Post” is merely being loyal to a stalwart whose beat has been corporate misbehavior. After all, Vise is a “Post” writer. His ethical breakthrough surely allows him entry into the hallowed ranks of the New Charlatans. Supposedly they have indulged in their peccancies under the pressure of selling books too. Watch for them to be defending Vise for his selfless efforts to spread literacy in America.
While on the subject of the New Charlatans “Slate,” famous for being hoaxed by Jay Foreman whose story of men fishing for monkeys in the trees of the Florida Everglades was claptrap, has been hoaxed again. The other day “Slate” admitted that two reports in a “Diary” by “the North American head of a European auto manufacturer” were fictitious. There was no such auto executive. “Slate” had been hoodwinked, but at least this time “Slate” did not try to cover up its mistake and the humbug author of its two pieces is not trying to palm himself off as a real author. In fact no one knows who the real author is. Will he (or she) please step forward. He might yet be nominated for a Pulitzer or perhaps a Bancroft prize.
Click here to read RET’s latest column, posted earlier today.