09_reviews

Book Reviews

Jana Brubaker. Text, Lies and Cataloging: Ethical Treatment of Deceptive Works in the Library. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2018. 158p. Paper, $55.00 (ISBN 978-0-7864-9744-7).

Book cover of Text, Lies and Cataloging by Jana Brubaker

In Text, Lies and Cataloging, Jana Brubaker explores the various issues that catalog professionals face in providing bibliographic descriptions of deceptive library resources. As she explains in her preface, creating accurate and useful catalog records for library users can be particularly challenging for works that contain inaccurate facts, deceive the reader through questionable authorship, or blur the boundaries of genre. The circumstances and possible cataloging solutions surrounding works of questionable authorship, authenticity, or veracity are multifarious, and Brubaker’s stated dual goal is to provide “a resource that identifies, describes, and discusses questionable books” (pg. 1) and to “suggest a framework for navigating decisions that must be made when cataloging these materials” (pg. 2).

Taking into account the potential interest of this topic to noncatalogers, the author begins her book with an articulate introduction into relevant cataloging terms. Brubaker, who has more than 25 years of cataloging experience, provides clear and concise explanations of the Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) fields in which bibliographic records and authority records are encoded. She pays special attention to bibliographic fields that are relevant to the cataloging of questionable works and discusses the purposes of authority records such as disambiguation and collocation. Her lucid explanations are accompanied by screenshots of two OCLC-MARC records, one of a bibliographic record and the other of an authority record, which have been altered to include explanatory labels and to provide complementary visual clarifications.

The next three chapters of the book discuss briefly the category of deceptive works and the obstacles to accurate cataloging, followed by a survey of the cataloging standards and professional codes of ethics. Brubaker describes the dilemmas that catalogers face in assessing the veracity of deceptive works and the questionable authenticity of their authors. She continues to detail the principles of the professional standards that guide catalogers in their daily cataloging tasks, including among others the previous and current cataloging rules, the Statement of International Cataloguing Principles issued by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and The Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Collectively, these preliminary chapters provide an insightful review of the professional values and responsibilities of catalogers relevant to deceptive works and propose a useful “framework for assessing these works in order to help catalogers decide what is ethical, practical, and necessary” (pg. 4).

The balance of the book is devoted to the discussion of case studies, limited in scope to monographs in English and published between 1800 and the present, which serve both as a general reference of key deceptive works and as an instructive compilation of possible cataloging approaches. This practical section consists of 55 case studies that are organized into four genre categories: memoirs and autobiographies, other nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Brubaker discusses the circumstances of each case in detail, makes brief recommendations about how the books should be cataloged, and supports her assertions and claims with well-researched endnotes. There is a bibliography of the case studies, a selected bibliography of secondary sources, and a comprehensive index at the end of the book.

While expressing preference for the broader term of deceptive works over terms such as literary forgeries, false memories, literary hoaxes, and fake literature, Brubaker sensibly chooses to focus in her case studies on two particularly challenging situations. The first relates to questionable authorship. “The author takes on or creates the identity of another person for the purpose of laying claim to experiences and perspectives that are not his own” (pg. 9). The second concerns the veracity of works, specifically of “self-described nonfiction works that are actually fiction or contain factual errors” (pg. 10).

By limiting her investigative scope, Brubaker is able to conduct an extensive analysis of the seemingly countless variations of the two cases, thereby greatly enhancing her discussions and culminating with a nuanced and thoughtful summary of cataloging solutions. Her suggestions are carefully crafted, always taking into account professional and ethical considerations. They are practical in nature and, at times, quite thought-provoking as they call for a more active role of the cataloger in the unmasking of deceptive works. In her final paragraph, Brubaker acknowledges that her proposed solutions are mostly useful in the current MARC environment, and she assures the reader that “grappling with questions of authenticity, identity, and veracity in relation to our profession’s responsibilities and ethical standards will remain relevant” in a linked data environment (pg. 129).

The book under review is aimed toward selectors of materials, reference librarians, library science students, and, particularly, catalogers. The case studies, ranging from Clifford Irving’s elaborate ploy to publish a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes to David Solway’s practical joke of inventing a fictional Greek poet named Andres Karavis, represent a series of curious and delightful vignettes that might also be of interest to nonlibrarians. The book’s major accomplishment lies in the author’s ability to combine thoughtful deliberations on cataloging issues related to questionable works with a very entertaining selection of case studies, narrated and discussed in a fashion easily accessible to a wide audience.—Danijela Matković, Yale University

Copyright Danijela Matković


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