In 1943, fed up with modernist poetry, two Australian servicemen invented a fake poet and submitted a collection of deliberately senseless verses to a Melbourne arts magazine. To their delight, they were accepted and their author hailed as “one of the most remarkable and important poetic figures of this country.” In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Ern Malley hoax, its perpetrators, and its surprising legacy in Australian literature.
We’ll also hear a mechanized Radiohead and puzzle over a railroad standstill.
In 1896 an English statistician decided that “brass instruments have a fatal influence on the growth of the hair.”
The Lincoln Electric Company presented a check made of steel to each winner of a 1932 essay contest.
Sources for our feature on Ern Malley:
Michael Heyward, The Ern Malley Affair, 1993.
Brian Lloyd, “Ern Malley and His Rivals,” Australian Literary Studies 20:1 (May 2001) 20.
Philip Mead, “1944, Melbourne and Adelaide: The Ern Malley Hoax,” in Brian McHale and Randall Stevenson, eds., The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Literatures in English, 2006.
The Ern Malley website contains the complete story and poems.
In June 2002 Jacket Magazine ran a special “hoax” issue, with much background and commentary on the Malley story.
Radiohead’s “Nude” played by a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, an Epson LX-81 dot matrix printer, an HP Scanjet 3c, and an array of hard drives:
Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” via Super Mario World:
“Logická Hádanka” by Horkýže Slíže — a Slovak punk band sings a lateral thinking puzzle (translation and solution in video description):
Guy Clifton and Emerson Marcus, “A Tale of the ’70s: When D.B. Cooper’s Plane Landed in Reno,” Reno Gazette-Journal, July 13, 2016.
Ralph P. Himmelsbach and Thomas K. Worcester, Norjak: The Investigation of D.B. Cooper, 1986.
This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Greg, who collected these corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).
You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.
Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.
Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening!