On this day in 1956, the novel I, Libertine was published. What makes this novel such a literary oddity is that it made the New York Times bestseller list before a single word of it had been written.
The story begins with the writer Jean Shepherd, best known as the narrator and co-writer of the film A Christmas Story. In 1956 Shepherd hosted a late-night talk radio show in New York City. Annoyed that bestseller lists were being influenced not just by book sales but also by the number of requests for a book at bookstores, Shepherd hatched one of the great literary hoaxes in history. Shepherd encourages his radio listeners to visit their local bookstores and request a book that did not exist, a novel whose title and author were totally fabricated: I, Libertine by Frederick R. Ewing.
The plot thickened once the nonexistent book hit the bestseller list. With the imaginary book now in demand, publisher Ian Ballantine met with Shepherd and novelist Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon was hired to write the novel based on the rough plot outline provided by Shepherd, and on this date the fabricated fictional work became fact.
Today’s Challenge: Fabricated First Lines
What would be the opening line of your bestselling novel? Try your own hand at fabricated fiction. Grab a novel that you haven’t read. Look at the title, and then compose a captivating first sentence. Next, grab a friend. Read your friend your sentence along with the actual opening sentence (in no particular order) to see if your friend can tell which is the actual opening sentence. Your goal is to pass your prose off as professional!
Quote of the Day: My own luck has been curious all my literary life; I never could tell a lie that anyone would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe. –Mark Twain