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Cute Literary Mini-Hoax Goes (seemingly) Unnoticed for Years

July 22, 2009

Mark Sample, contemporary American lit professor at George Mason University, recently wrote of a fairly clever literary mini-hoax he discovered in the journal Modernism/Modernity–published by the Johns Hopkins UP.

In said mini-hoax, the journal published a review of David Foster Wallace’s collection of short stories, titled Oblivion, called “An Undeniably Controversial and Perhaps Even Repulsive Talent” (the name, on its own, should have tipped someone off) penned by Jay Murray Siskind.  All is well until one remembers that Siskind is no member of the Department of Popular Culture at Blacksmith College, as printed in the journal, but instead is Don DeLillo’s only recurring character found–most notably–in White Noise as a professor of popular culture at the College-on-the-Hill where J.A.K. Gladney also professes, and also as a sportswriter in DeLillo’s pseudonymous novel AMAZONS. The review is written as I imagine Siskind would write a literary review, but not necessarily using DeLillo’s voice or syntax.  Sample seems certain that neither DeLillo or Foster Wallace were involved in the prank and I surely believe him.

The editors (at the time) of Modernism/Modernity got in touch with Professor Sample with their sly mea culpa and all is again well with the world.  It’s not too surprising that a journal–even one of the magnitude of Modernism/Modernity–would delve into the realm of hijinx but it is, however, surprising that not a few supposed scholars have cited the obviously ludic review as a scholarly source.

Note: I neglected to mention that J.A.K. Gladney, other colleagues from White Noise, and Hal Incandenza from Infinite Jest are cited as sources and additional reading for the review.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 23, 2009 12:51 am

    That kind of thing is quite popular among scholars, I’ve found. Google Franz Bibfeldt sometime. He even gives a yearly lecture at the University of Chicago, two of which I duly attended.

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