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July 14, 2003

The Mystery of the Ghost Writer
Posted by Teresa at 08:45 PM *

A parody of modern literary politics, and of the Hardy Boys mysteries, from the archives of National Lampoon magazine. It was written back in that brief glorious period when the writers didn’t give a damn whether you caught the joke. It’s a completely bleeping glorious piece of work. The precise gradation of saidbookisms is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Comments on The Mystery of the Ghost Writer:
#1 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2003, 09:05 PM:

The URL you provided didn't work, pointing just to the NL main page.

Try this one.

#3 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 12:14 AM:

...And she's not kidding. You really really want it. Suddenly I feel age ten to fourteen again. Or something like it. Boy, am I glad that's over.

If I may digress just a little: a friend of mine wrote one or two or three Hardy Boys mysteries back in the '90s. I read one of them. If you understood that it was written by a fortyish queer Masters swim coach / adjunct English professor, it became a whole new book. The Boys did seem to be taking their shirts off an awful lot, didn't they? Now this was the sort of Hardy Boys book I needed back in the day.

#4 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 01:56 AM:

You *do* know about Nancy Clueless and the Hardly Boys, don't you?


#5 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 02:46 AM:

Don't let Douglas Coupland or Elizabeth Wurtzel read this, or we're all doomed.

#6 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 10:09 AM:

FWIW, in case you still aren't sure, it appears to have been co-written by Charlie Kaufman, of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation fame, which makes perfect sense, really.

#7 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 11:00 AM:

MKK: I know *of* Nancy Clue, but I've never read any of the books. Sooner or later, I'll have to add it to the pile.

#8 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 04:51 PM:

I remember Ellen Steiber saying a little over ten years ago, "When I was a girl, I wanted to meet Carolyn Keene. Now, I am Carolyn Keene!"

#9 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 11:26 PM:

Kaufman's co-writer on this is Will Jacobs, who, in collaboration with Gerard Jones, wrote The Beaver Papers and Honey, I'm Home (two very different books about sitcoms), The Comic Book Heroes (a pretty good history of Silver Age superhero comics), and The Trouble with Girls (a really odd and intermittently hilarious comic about a reluctant Bondian superspy).

#10 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 11:36 PM:

Thanks for the link.

Alas, when I checked the menu on the "Flashbacks" page, they did NOT include "How To Talk Dirty In Esperanto", which would have been on my list of classic NL pieces.

Or Terry Southern's piece on the SGR.

Or "Mrs. Agnew's Diary".


#11 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 11:42 PM:

Just checked Google. "Talk Dirty In Esperanto" garnered over 1,900 hits.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 01:19 AM:

While we're reminiscing:

I had an email exchange with her earlier in the year, over the relative merits of a printed vs. a CD collection of Trots & Bonny strips.

It is hard to believe that no one has tapped her to put together a collection...

#13 ::: Dylan O'Donnell ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 08:46 AM:

Is there any relation between "Mrs. Agnew's Diary" and "Mrs Wilson's Diary" (purportedly of British Prime Minister Harold Wilson's wife), a regular fixture in Private Eye of the appropriate period and predecessor to the "Dear Bill" letters? Or were they independent inventions?

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 09:41 AM:

I don't know whether they were independent inventions.

As long as we're wishing for old NL articles, I want the medieval account of the space race between Christendom and the Infidels. It was written in excellent dog-Latin, and illustrated in the style of manuscript illuminations. IIRC, the Christian rocket was powered by being stuffed with praying monks, and took off when they achieved contemptus mundi.

#15 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 10:26 AM:

Will & Jerry (along with Mark Waid) are also responsible for Sidney Mellon, one of the longest running comic-book litcrit in-jokes out there. (He was a fictional teenage commentator for Amazing Heroes and the creator of "Sidney Mellon's Thunderskull!" among other things.)

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 01:01 PM:

Paul, why would that doom us all?

Kevin: Thank you. That does make sense. A remarkable amount of talent passed through NL in its glory days.

Mary Kay, I don't know about Nancy Clueless and the Hardly Boys. Say on?

Bruce, I think I may be able to help you.

The "Talk Dirty in Esperanto" sites I've found are maintained by Esperantists, and refer to the NL article only in passing, if they refer to it at all. As one of them says:

Some years ago (in 1972, to be exact) an article with this title appeared in the National Lampoon and caused quite a stir on campuses across the country. It was however quite unreliable from the linguistic point of view, since the authors had no qualms about inventing items they couldn't find in their (obviously very chintzy) dictionary. ...
How shocking.

However, you can find the original "How to Talk Dirty in Esperanto" in The National Lampoon Treasury of Humor, a reprint anthology published in 1991. The book is out of print, but according to this site you can get a copy for as little as $5.75 + S&H.

#17 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 09:15 PM:

Esperantists were upset that new terms were invented for an invented language?

Shocking, indeed.

#19 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2003, 11:19 AM:

You might also like The Encyclopedia Brown Casefiles at Current faves include:

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Part-Way Pilot
Bugs Meaney goes to flight school

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Supreme Court Showdown
The Boy Detective v. Bush v. Gore

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Death Row Dubya
The GOP goes to Idaville

And my current favorite at
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing WMDs.

#20 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2003, 11:43 AM:

Various responses:

I had forgotten about Sidney Mellon. Thank you for reminding me!

There was a collection of Trots & Bonnie. Given that the collection was published in France, it is unsurprising that it is in French.

From what I understand, Esperantists don't object to people making up new words, as long as the words are well-formed and fill a gap. It looks like the complaint is that the neologisms weren't elegant and were redundant.

#21 ::: Ros' Haruo ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 06:03 PM:

Bruce Arthurs: "Esperantists were upset that new terms were invented for an invented language?Shocking, indeed."

Problem was the NL article reinvented not only the wheel, but the rack and the Chinese water torture to boot.

The most egregious mistranslation in the NL article was the constant use of "fuki" ("to rockweed") for "fiki" (the proper F word). The result, to one fluent in Esperanto, was as irritatingly ridiculous as would be an article on "how to talk dirty in English" that gave the seven unmentionables as "shet, piz, count, fick, cockseeker, matherfaqir, Tietz". Pity the poor isolated learner who tried to use the thing to learn the juicy stuff. (Admittedly, NL never did claim language-teaching credentials.)

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