The Washington Post

“Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts” edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer



An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts

Edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer Norton. 361 pp. Paperback, $18.95

The words “fake,” “faux” and “fraudulent” rarely have a positive connotation in this age of the billion-dollar patent-infringement lawsuit and the tofu dog. We Americans prefer things to be genuine and certified. In the case of the anthology “Fakes,” edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer, the entries are certifiably inauthentic, but in a good way. The editors define the entries within as “fraudulent artifacts,” a form of writing that is modeled on an inane text — a grocery list, for instance — and infused with a story to create “an object that is more ‘authentic’ than the original upon which it is based.” The result is an collection of literary oddities, including a critical review of a man’s beard, a ghoulish last will and testament and, of all things, a romantic police blotter report.

One entry, by Kari Anne Roy, is composed of tweets from the film and music festival South by Southwest that channel the 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. One gem: “Wat ho, goatee’d man? Thy skinee jenes hath byrn’d my corneayas.” And another: “O that marche daye wan the sonne shone so bryte, vishones of glorye from hypsters’ mirrored sonneglasses stabbeth at myne fase.”

The police blotter entry captures the blossoming romantic interest between two police partners as well as the farcical parts of their daily routine. “800 Block, Clearvale Street. Possibile Illegal entry. Complainant ‘senses a prescence’ upon returning home from yoga class. Officers investigate, ascertain opportunity to practice Cop Swagger, to kick things up a bit,” Daniel Orozco writes in “Officers Weep.” “Search of premises yields nothing. ‘That’s okay,’ complainant says. ‘It’s gone now.’” Officers mutter, blame yoga.”

For those bored with the more stodgy “best of” collections of literary fiction, this book is an entertaining escape into that absurd realm of writing where “fake” can be a good thing.

T. Rees Shapiro

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.


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