The Trickster Prince

Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.

Bad history? Fakes and phoney index entries

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Spot anything wrong? This is part of the index for Queer London.

I couldn’t resist. Sorting out an index is tedious at the best of times and the chance to throw something random in there was too good to pass up. Writing about history can be such a serious endeavour (see any of my recent blogs for evidence of the dangers of taking ourselves too seriously) and so the chance to have a bit of fun was also too good to pass up. And if there wasn’t enough of me in that book already this was another way of making it personal and bringing the whole thing closer to home. The Baths Hall is where–as an eighteen year-old indie kid with a ridiculous Morrissey quiff–I went with friends for a Friday night out. This bit of my past smells of stale beer and is soundtracked by the Breeders.

Is there a serious point here? The book I am currently writing is about fakes and forgeries and deceptions and their capacity to play havoc with our ability to know the world around us. If we can’t trust in the ‘truth’ of what we read in books or who we meet in the street then surely our lives feel much less secure? In 1928 the literary critic HM Paull noted that when faced with the fake or fraudulent ‘one’s natural attitude is that of condemnation. The forger renders history, biography, in fact every form of literary work, untrustworthy: he “fouls the very wells of truth.”’ I’m not sure what he would have thought about the Baths Hall. Maybe I can get away with this: it’s only an index entry, after all. Would it be any different if it was a footnote though?

There are three other dodgy entries in the index to Queer London: a small prize to the first person who spots them…

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One comment on “Bad history? Fakes and phoney index entries

  1. Immediate family members of the author and employees of The University of Chicago Press are ineligible. Winners are required to attend an informational meeting on timeshare opportunities to collect prize. Entries due May 30,2010.

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