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Shakespeare dictated this review
on 29 March 2013
To call this a history is stretching the term somewhat: it's more of a catalogue than a history, with each entry getting a few pages of exposition that is entirely separable from the rest of the book.
That quibble aside, the book is fairly entertaining - and as long as entertainment is all that you want, it's perfectly fine (though the sheer number of times that Oprah Winfrey turns up as having endorsed a book that turns out to be utter cobblers is instructive, and maliciously amusing). It's the sort of book that you'd keep in the loo, rather than on an academic bookshelf.
One thing that would have improved it a great deal is the attention of a careful editor. There's a number of typos sprinkled throughout the text (on p 189 "Tom Robbins" is, presumably, Tim Robbins; on p 217 we get "a phone-call she felt duty bound to make as soon as she realised what he sister was doing", and so on), and the odd sentence that is obviously unfinished (thus at p 266: "The homosexual subtext might not be immediately obvious to all readers, but to scholars familiar with the secret initiation rites of the Carpocratians and the fact that in the standard Gospel of Mark there is a strange nonsequitur about a young man present at the time of Jesus' arrest in a flimsy covering of a linen cloth which is torn off him, leaving him to run off naked." - well, what about those scholars?).
At other times, the narrative is confused and confusing; on p 193 Katsoulis talks about JT LeRoy as having "spent the entire first half of the 1990s consistently visible above the cultural radar" (and what does it mean to be "above the radar" anyway?), but on only p 191 had talked about him first having come to public attention in 1997. Norma Khouri is said to have taken part in a documentary to clear her name in 2007 (p 157), but only a few sentences later is said to have "made something akin to an admission of guilt" in 2004. There's something odd about that; if the earlier statement was an admission of guilt, what would be the point of an attempt to clear her name?
And when the book ends... well, it just stops. There's no afterword; no attempt to tie everything together to balance the introduction that is - in comparison to the main chapters - rather long. Just an extended quotation and then... nothing.
Katsoulis' book isn't bad by any stretch; but just a tiny bit more could have made it a whole lot better. And, once again, don't go expecting a proper history; that's not what this is. Mind you, in a book about literary deception, it'd perhaps be cavilling to labour the point about that bit of misdirection.