Anderson, Jack. "Ern Malley's Triumph: How a Hoax Became a Myth," New York Times, 5
December 1989, p. C19.
Forgeries and fakeries in art have occasionally appeared on this listing of fraud in science. Here
is another one, worthy of inclusion if, for no other reason, than it has become myth. Two
Australian poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, concocted a tale of Ern Malley, a young
poet who wrote a few things and died. Max Harris, editor of Angry Penguins of South Australia,
was sent the poems by Malley's sister and promptly published them. Then the truth came out: it
was a hoax. McAuley and Stewart were intent on demonstrating the trendiness and emptiness of
certain Australian editors.
The poems had been written in a single afternoon. They were vapid. They were overblown and
wordy. But they did have some redeeming features: some of the imagery was very good.
Absurdly, the poems were judged to be obscene and the publisher fined ($16) for publishing
them. But now thay have succeeded. "...Ern Malley triumphed. Australians, who love good yarns,
still delight in telling the story of Ern Malley, and new editions of ‘his' poems are occasionally
published. Ern Malley has become part of Australian literary history and cultural mythology."
Just so, there are tales of Galileo's dropping weights from the Leaning Tower and Newton
getting bonked by an apple. Myths become part of heritage whether they are hoaxes or not.