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Greasing the hype machine

A hot topic of conversation in the online literary community is the commercial success of The Traveler, an ambiguously fictional first novel written by the strangely pseudonymed John Twelve Hawks. Climbing the New York Times bestsellers list, making its way onto the pages of the international press, and being optioned for a film without so much as a book tour or interview with its mysterious author, The Traveler has become the source of much bewilderment and hoopla.

The reclusive author with a potentially true story passing as fiction is nothing new, as is shown in a recent story posted on The Times Online. The article begins with a discussion of the mother of all ambiguously fictional novels, Henri Charrière’s Papillon — about the author’s supposed imprisonment, subsequent escape and adoption into an aboriginal community in French Guiana — segues into a discussion on veracity in an author’s biography, ends with a short write-up on reclusive authors that that includes J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Don DeLillo, and Thomas Pynchon, among others, and ultimately blasts The Traveler, saying “the writer too shy to be named has become a cliché, and a marketing tool. The Traveler is shooting up the bestseller lists, in part because the author has declined to be identified.”

Related links:
Click here for the Times Online article
Click here for a reviewer’s discussion of the book’s hype
Click here for The Traveler‘s cryptic official website