Sunday, April 01, 2007


Harry Not-ter

Just in time for the release of The Hoax, in the new April issue of The Believer (and in full text at their website) is my piece on "Namejacking: Seven Books Even Their Authors Don't Recognize":

For an editor, dead authors are notably easier to work with than living ones. This probably explains why, in 1731, the London printer Thomas Astley was able to coax a most unusual seventy-four-page tract out of Sir Isaac Newton: Tables for Renewing and Purchasing Leases of Cathedral Churches and Colleges. Since he’d already been dead for four years, it mattered little that Newton was not in the habit of writing lease-calculators: what mattered was that his name could sell any math-related title, and that Sir Isaac was in no position to lodge a complaint about it.

Formally known as allonymic literature, books that steal the names of famous authors are as old as the pursuit of profit in publishing—which is to say, they are probably as old as literature itself...

In particular, I became fascinated by alloynmic literature using the name of a living writer -- a maneuver which, even for counterfeiters, shows incredible chutzpah.

Although a Chinese counterfeit titled Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon got some attention a few years back, there's been no coverage at all of the fact that even more counterfeit Harry Potter "sequels" have followed, including -- I kid you not -- Harry Potter and the Water-Repelling Pearl:

Beijing-based computer programmer Russell Young has an awesome page on his discoveries among the Potter knockoffs.

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