May 15, 2012

AREN'T THE ONES WHO BOUGHT IT AFTER MORE TROUBLESOME?:

Mike McGrady, Known for a Literary Hoax, Dies at 78 (MARGALIT FOX, May 14, 2012, NY Times)

Mike McGrady, a prizewinning reporter for Newsday who to his chagrin was best known as the mastermind of one of the juiciest literary hoaxes in America -- the best-selling collaborative novel "Naked Came the Stranger," whose publication in 1969 made "Peyton Place" look like a church picnic -- died on Sunday in Shelton, Wash. [...]

Intended to be a work of no redeeming social value and even less literary value, "Naked Came the Stranger" by all appearances succeeded estimably on both counts.

Originally issued by Lyle Stuart, an independent publisher known for subversive titles, the novel was a no-holds-barred chronicle of a suburban woman's sexual liaisons, with each chapter recounting a different escapade:

She has sex with a mobster and sex with a rabbi. She has sex with a hippie and sex with at least one accountant. There is a scene involving a tollbooth, another involving ice cubes and still another featuring a Shetland pony.

The book's cover -- a nude woman seen from behind -- left little to the imagination, as, in its way, did its prose:

"Ernie found what Cervantes and Milton had only sought. He thought the fillings in his teeth would melt."

The purported author was Penelope Ashe, who as the jacket copy told it was a "demure Long Island housewife." In reality, Mr. McGrady had dreamed up the book as ironic commentary on the public's appetite for Jacqueline Susann and her ilk.

For interviews and public appearances, Mr. McGrady conscripted his sister-in-law Billie Young to pose as Mrs. Ashe.

"Naked Came the Stranger," which remains in print, has sold about 400,000 copies, according to its current publisher, Barricade Books, which rereleased it in 2004.

That year, The Village Voice rapturously described the book as being "of such perfectly realized awfulness that it will suck your soul right out of your brainpan and through your mouth, and you will happily let it go."

First published in summer 1969, "Naked Came the Stranger" quickly sold 20,000 copies. Later that summer, Mr. McGrady and his co-conspirators came clean, and news of the book's genesis made headlines round the world. By the end of the year, the novel had spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

"What has always worried me," Mr. McGrady told Newsday in 1990, "are the 20,000 people who bought it before the hoax was exposed."
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Posted by at May 15, 2012 4:49 AM
  

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