There was an obit just published for Mike McGrady, the ringleader behind the writing of Naked Came the Stranger, which was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its day in that it was a racy book that people couldn’t stop talking about, even if they had a hard time trying to get themselves to read it.
The thing about McGrady’s work was, in addition to being bluer than an army of Blue Meanies, it was also a literary hoax. He gathered together some of his co-workers, fellow journalists who wrote for Newsday, and cobbled together a Harold Robbins rip-off to make a point about how people’s tastes have developed as of late. The plan included passing off his sister-in-law as the writer of a deliberately trashy work and holding off revealing its origin and intent until a minimum number of sales were made.
And in the end, it was a relatively harmless hoax. It wasn’t as embarrassing and angst-laden as James Frey’s breakout mess, and McGrady didn’t turn this into a means to build a literary sweatshop, going back to his typewriter the way Cincinnatus returned to the farm when his adventures were over.
And looking back on that time and comparing it to today, I want to know: Where’s our Naked Came the Stranger? Why hasn’t someone come forth and done a deliberately bad Twilight clone, passing off their aunt as the writer of the fun-house mirror held up to us to remind people that sometimes we go for bad choices like a kid at a buffet that only hits the desserts? Have we all lost our sense of fun, and maybe our nerve in the face of big media companies wanting to build franchises out of books like that who are willing to sue us silly to protect their properties? Are we that willing to let stuff just sit there that we can’t creatively say no to like that?
Sometimes, I do miss the good ol’ days…