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If You Like Hoaxes …

… then you have to admit that this one is pretty good: sending a piece of bogus research material to a biographer whom you happen to hate. In this case, the biographer is A.N. Wilson, who was writing a book about the poet John Betjeman. Wilson made use of the bogus letter, only to discover too late that the letter was fake — and that if you took the first letter of each sentence and added them one to the next, they would spell out this lovely message: “A.N. Wilson is a shit.”

This reminds me of my first job in journalism, as an editorial assistant at New York magazine. Once or twice a week, it was my job to stay late to look over the closing page proofs to make sure there were no errors that the story editors, copy editors, or production editors had missed. The most important thing was to make sure that the “drop caps” (i.e., the jumbo capital letters that begin each new section of a magazine article) didn’t inadvertently spell out something offensive. If I recall correctly, there was once an article about breast cancer whose drop caps were T, I, T, and S.