26 Lies/1 Truth by Ben Peek is, among other things, a book about authorial fraud. Hardly surprising, then, that Peek uses the opportunity to commit a spot of authorial fraud himself. Or does he?
To be honest, I emerged from the book feeling somewhat dazed and exhausted (having read it from beginning to end within a 24 hour period), and I’m not entirely sure what I feel about it. Impressed, certainly. Curious, definitely. A little pissed off... well, maybe.
Let’s start with the basics. 26 Lies/1 Truth claims to be “the autobiography of a man who has been nowhere, done nothing and met nobody.” It is thickly detailed with the life history of Mr Ben Peek, taking in his relationships with family, friends, and developing writing career. Through a series of dialogues, it also reveals (piece by piece) the relationship between Peek and “G,” who may or may not be the one woman he claims to have loved. Indispersed with these character windows are occasional vignettes discussing a variety of the more famous literary hoaxes of history, covering pseudonyms, cultural appropriations, and some very recent literary outrages.
One idea which I felt was very strongly a part of the book, though never overtly stated, is that the measurable scandal or outrage caused by a literary hoax depends very much on what a person is pretending to be. An author of fiction who pretends to belong to a minority culture is seen as the devil incarnate, whereas someone who pretends to belong to a more privileged subgroup (at its simplest, a woman writer pretending to be a man) is sympathised with, and approved of. Ben Peek, a self-confessed white male English speaking Australian, can therefore not commit any kind of socially approved authorial fraud unless he finds someone more advantaged than himself whom he can pretend to be. The fraud that he chooses to portray, viewed through this light, becomes all the more fascinating.
It's all good. I couldn't have hoped for a more open, and giving, review. It's real cool.
My only disappointment, so far, with all the feedback I've got is that it's all about me, and there's not been some time spared for Anna Brown, the artist, and Andrew Macrae (andrewmacrae), who provided the cover, and Deb Layne (deborahlive), the publisher. But mostly, I do kind of wish that there will be some time spent for Anna, because it's her art that allows the book to work. She is the key to joining all the narratives together and, basically, what enables the book to be a novel. If you remove it, that whole trick is a lot more difficult than you could ever imagine. I know that kind of indy art style isn't for everyone, but I'm hoping in one of the reviews she'll get her due. That's not a critique of the above review, mind. That's just me wanting Anna to get what I think she deserves.
If anyone tries to convince you it's a one person show, they're lying.
Buy it from Amazon, buy it from Wheatland Press.