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I, Libertine or How To Get Ahead In The Literary Scene

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posted on Feb, 18 2015 @ 11:16 PM
Ever dream of hacking the system? Artfully turning the establishment against itself and in the process, exposing its absurd nature to ridicule? Here's a story of a man who did just that.

Admittedly, I wasn't familiar with the book I, Libertine or the name of its creator, Jean Shepherd, until I saw an item from iO9 this afternoon in my news feed and that's a shame, because this is the stuff of legend.

Shepherd was a raconteur (a master of the all-but-lost art of story telling), a humorist, an engineer of comedic mischief, a fabricator of half-truths and champion of the "night people" (if you've ever worked graveyard shift, you can appreciate that). The work of his perhaps most familiar is the classic holiday film, A Christmas Story, based on his book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and narrated by the man himself.

After serving in the US Army during WWII, Jean Shepherd began his radio career with short stints at radio stations in Cincinnati and Philadelphia before finding himself in the overnight slot on NYC's WOR. In 1956, his first year at WOR, Shepherd was on the verge of being let go for not being commercial enough and so he did a commercial for Sweetheart Soap. The problem was, Sweetheart Soap was not a sponsor of his show and the stunt got him fired.

A legion of loyal fans of the show waged a campaign to have him brought back and when Sweetheart Soap stepped up and offered to sponsor his show, he was reinstated. That same year, after visiting a bookstore, he came up with an idea for an epic hoax that would be pulled off with the assistance of his listeners.

From Wikipedia:

The most famous of the last involved creating a hoax about a non-existent book, I, Libertine, by the equally non-existent author "Frederick R. Ewing", in 1956. During a discussion on how easy it was to manipulate the best seller lists, which at that time were based not only on sales but demand, Shepherd suggested that his listeners visit bookstores and ask for a copy of I, Libertine which led to booksellers attempting to purchase the book from their distributors. Fans of the show eventually took it further, planting references to the book and author so widely that demand for the book led to it being listed on The New York Times Best Seller list.

From iO9:

That was how I, Libertine, authored by Frederick Ewing, and published by Excelsior Press of Cambridge University, burst onto the literary scene. Night people went into stores asking for it, bookstore owners began making inquiries, and the hoax was helped along by Shepherd's contacts in the media, who mentioned lunches with "Freddie Ewing." Naturally, some people who weren't in loop played along, talking over the merits of the fake book and giving the story credibility. One college student even got a B+ for a paper discussing Frederick Ewing's historical fiction.

Deciding to capitalize on publicity following the revelation of the hoax, Ballantine Books contacted Shepherd who outlined a book that was then written by Theodore Sturgeon, author of the 1953 sci-fi classic, More Than Human.
edit on 2015-2-18 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 18 2015 @ 11:21 PM
Grand, man...just grand. That is rich.

posted on Feb, 19 2015 @ 12:54 AM
a reply to: theantediluvian

What a great hoax...I can just imagine teenagers, with hormones running wild, looking for that book in the corner pharmacies of the 50's and early 60's'

Fun story. S & F!

posted on Feb, 19 2015 @ 02:29 AM
a reply to: theantediluvian

You didn't make it clear that he did it all to troll the "day people" because he, and the "night people", felt alienated by being out of the "day people's" loop.

I think he blamed his woes (lack of marketability and whatever else) on the "day people" and accused them of being sheepish because what was trending in pop-culture was in contrast with his subculture's (night people's) vision/expression/fashion.

Basically, Luke 16:13 -- you cannot serve to masters. He felt disdain for having to tailor the expression of his loves/his views to an undesired market (the money men; the advertisers) - he felt burdened by having to market his love/his work. I think.

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