Matthew Vollmer, author, professor, and collector of odd literary jags, has a new book coming out in October. It’s called Fakes, and the subtitle runs, “An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, ‘Found’ Texts and Other Fraudulent Artifacts.” He and David Shields co-edit the anthology, 40 short stories hidden beneath such guises as an unhappy letter to the parking department or a personal ad in the newspaper. Matthew also runs a Tumblr account, MIRRORHOUSE, which includes an ongoing “Compendium of Literary Artifacts, Both Actual and Fraudulent.” One intriguing hoax mentioned by Vollmer on his site involves “The Amber Witch,” a 1841 book claiming to be an instructional manual for avoiding malevolent magic.
In “Keeper of the Flame,” featured in the current issue, Matthew Vollmer takes a disturbing excursion:
My father glanced over his shoulder at me and emitted a wheeze-burst of laughter—an exhalation intended to express disbelief. He had led me to an underground vault containing the artifacts of the last century’s most brutal regime, and he now seemed downright giddy. I, on the other hand, didn’t know what to think or what to say. I found it difficult to process what any of this meant. That is, I didn’t know why it was here, how it had gotten from where it had been made to where it was now. Were we in the presence of some kind of monster? Or had he created this space for stuff he deemed historically significant, buried it in a moisture-controlled vault because he fancied himself one of history’s unbiased curators? Was this the product of an obsessive and sympathetic mind, one which interpreted the mainstream records of history as having been unduly cruel to the Third Reich, which had been a movement, in his eyes, about nationalism, about ancestors, about revering and honoring the past? I didn’t know. And, honestly, I was afraid to ask.