Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux Lectures, Quasi-Letters, "Found" Texts and Other Fraudulent Artifacts edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer; Norton, 361 pages ($18.95 paperback original.)
The fraudulent text is one of the oldest ideas in the history of fiction. Consider, after all, Cervantes and "Don Quixote," and Defoe and "The Journal of the Plague Year."
"One assessment seems certain," say these damnably brilliant anthologists about our current age. "That we will be known as the first era to become enslaved by our information - and by the devices that deliver it." And not just "the monitors and mobile devices into whose screens we so worshipfully stare" but "the genres and linguistic forms that structure our information. . genres that set parameters, define boundaries, establish limitations. In short, genres tell our words - and therefore us - what to do."
We're talking about "texts, tweets, status updates, blogs, itineraries, instructions, lectures" as well as permit forms, catalogs, comment cards, end-of-year reports, traffic updates.
"But now," they advise us, "imagine this: our oft-repressed language staging a rebellion . What if, in addition to relaying information, the language within one of those forms swerved, digressed, became elevated and began to do something spectacular? What if the language within these forms enacted a giddy and imaginative revenge?"
So join the vengeful party of writers like George Saunders inventing a corporate response from something called KidLuv to parents who purchased an "innovative educational tool" helping their toddler to speak. And Lorrie Moore's instructions on How to Become a Writer ("First, try to be something, anything else"). And Kari Anne Roy's version of what Chaucer might have tweeted on Twitter from the South By Southwest Festival (or, to its friends, SXSW). Or co-editor David Shields' specimen American life told through the largest amalgam of bumper stickers you're likely to read, from "You're only young once but you can be immature forever" to "Choose Death." A hell of a party.
- Jeff Simon