The Fabulist: A Novel Stephen Glass (Simon & Schuster)
Sammy Sosa was ejected from a major league baseball game last week for allegedly using a corked bat. That's cheating. Accompanying the stories of the Sosa scandal from the very beginning were reminders about Albert Belle and Wilton Guerrero, the last two guys to get caught corking. With that reporting tendency in mind, the recent outing of New York Times writer Jayson Blair as a plagiarist must have Simon & Schuster and Stephen Glass salivating. Glass was the last journalist before Blair to be fired for fabricating stories. He's the one who created fake websites and voicemail boxes to cover his tracks once his editor started questioning him about one of his suspicious columns.

If not for Blair's blunders, I am sure Glass' "novel" (which is really a work of nonfiction masquerading as fiction) would go mostly unnoticed. Instead, the former writer has become an object of a renewed interest. "Legitimate" journalists have gone into a whirlwind of diatribe writing about Glass. One went so far as to claim he absolutely would not read the book and was actually suppressing an urge to burn it. What these writers apparently don't see is that all Glass really wants is attention, and that complete journalistic indifference would be more painful to him than a lambasting.

As a work of fiction, The Fabulist is a piece of crap. It is like a thrice watered-down re-telling of C.D. Payne's brilliant novel, Youth in Revolt. But where Revolt's protagonist Nick Twisp is charming and hilarious, Glass is pathetic and disgusting. During one completely incongruous and pointless aside about a summer job he held (which comes in the midst of a story about lying to his parents after getting an F on an Organic Chemistry test--go figure), he congratulates himself on being able to find a rat's G-spot. Way to go, Stephen.

Clearly, the value of The Fabulist has nothing to do with the superficial details of its plot. Rather, it is the circumstances which led to its production--Glass' irrepressible need to explain himself in an effort to regain acceptance--that we can learn from. What we discover is that the pathology of lying, at least in this case, results from a very deep, childish dependence on acceptance. AARON BEAM