New York: Macy-Masius. Near Fine in Near Fine dj. 1928. First Edition. Hardcover. NOISBN . [nice tight copy, the faintest bit of wear to book; jacket shows minor wear at extremities, light soiling to rear panel]. (frontispiece portrait, B&W plates) This "biography without a hero," the first ever published about the author whose name became synonymous with a peculiarly American type of rags-to-riches tale, was revealed a half-century after its initial publication to be a completely cooked-up fraud. Purporting to be based in large measure on Alger's diaries (which nobody had ever heard of because they, ahem, didn't exist), the book set out to debunk one myth (Alger as a grown-up version of his plucky and resourceful boy heroes) with another (Alger as repressed mama's boy and dismal failure at both life and literature). There wasn't another full biography of Alger until the 1960s, at which point the Mayes tome was still being accepted as a reliable source, as it would be for at least another decade after that. Although various scholars had debunked large parts of the book, the whole story didn't come out until 1978, when Mayes himself issued a 50th-anniversary edition, containing an introduction in which he came clean about his deception, rather gleefully (it seemed to some) admitting that the book "literally swarms with countless absurdities." According to the Horatio Alger Society website, however, "even today it is still mistakenly cited as a reliable source in most reference texts." . (Inventory #: 19615)
Unusual, Uncommon and Obscure Books in many (but not all) fields, with particular interest in American Culture (Popular and Unpopular), Art, Literature, Life and People from the 1920s through the 1960s.
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