Saturday, September 02, 2006

Shadenfreude, anyone?

Even the best of us get taken it by charades, con games, and hoaxes. But when I read in the British Guardian that a hoax love letter had fooled A. N. Wilson, the biographer of poet laureate Sir John Betjeman, I had to wonder how hard it was to pull off the con.

The letter in question confirmed a love affair that was unknown, or at least unconfirmed, before now. When gossip becomes fact -- and sometimes even when it doesn't -- biographers are happy to wallow in the mud. But the bubble burst when a journalist pointed out that the first letter in each sentence of the letter spelled out "A. N. Wilson is a shit."

The only biography by Wilson that I have read is his ridiculously Freudian bio-deconstruction of C. S. Lewis. It was truly one of the worse biographies I have ever slogged through, Wilson's writing abilities notwithstanding. Wilson was accused of fudging the facts, as well as bending any reasonable interpretation of certain events to glean the maximum amount of sleeze, real or imagined, from the events of Lewis' life.

Was Wilson, again, looking a bit too hard for the libidinous to "balance" the laudable?

Admirers of C. S. Lewis, including his friend and biographer George Sayer, might be forgiven for having a chuckle at Wilson's expense.


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