History

The Realist Archive Is Now Complete

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For the last three years, Ethan Persoff has been posting the full run of Paul Krassner's magazine The Realist on the Web. That archive is now complete. I wrote about Persoff's project here on Hit & Run when it started, and for those of you who aren't familiar with The Realist I'll quote the description I offered back then:

In 1958 Paul Krassner set out to create a Mad magazine for adults. He was well-qualified for the task, being both a former Mad contributor and, in fact if not always in spirit, an adult. The result was The Realist, a journal whose great innovation was to refuse to label which articles were journalism and which were satire, and sometimes to add just enough truth to a piece of fiction that readers would be left completely befuddled as to what, if anything, they should believe. Some call it a prelude to the underground press. I call it a prelude to the Internet.

Krassner's most infamous hoax (and probably his best article) was "The Parts Left Out of the Kennedy Book," which posed as a series of outtakes from William Manchester's The Death of a President. It begins with some stories about JFK that were well-known but had not yet been reported, grows steadily less reliable, and concludes with Lyndon Baines sticking his Johnson in the president's throat wound. It's a testament to Krassner's literary skill -- or the average reader's gullibility, or LBJ's unpopularity -- that many people were fooled.

Some reading to get you started: a great interview with Ken Kesey, Lenny Bruce's ruminations on his troubles with the law, Robert Anton Wilson (writing as "A. Nonymous Hack") on his experiences working for a "schlock factory," and Krassner's brilliant investigative satire, "Who Killed Jerry Rubin?"

Joel Schlosberg has some more Realist links here. And I interviewed Krassner for an article on the yippies back in 2008.