I never read the Slate Diary of Robert Klingler, the supposed American CEO of a major European auto manufacturer, later exposed as a fraud. But the article born of the investigation into the hoax is one of the most interesting little detective stories I’ve read in a long time. You really must read it.
The upshot of the story is that ‘Robert Klingler’ is not some anonymous schmo but almost certainly a fellow named Ravi Desai, a storied and rather whacked impresario from the dot.com era.
Desai himself is fascinating to learn about — and one learns a good bit about him from this article. Many folks manage to be highly educated and fabulously and legitimately successful. Not a few are able to live as frauds and hucksters who pad their resumes with myriad non-existent accomplishments and credentials. There is a select breed, however, able and for some odd reason perhaps best understood through the modalities of psychiatry inclined to be both. Desai apparently falls into that category — the few, the proud, the ridiculous.
The author of the article, Jack Shafer, has been my editor at Slate for the last year or more. And occasionally, frustratingly so, since he’s constantly sending me back to do more reporting, more interviewing — often long after I feel enough’s been done. But reading this article, I see that Jack lives by what he preaches. And it also makes me wish Jack were doing more of these investigative type pieces.
Of course, I guess there’s one more possibility yet unmentioned. Perhaps Jack’s been yearning to write such a piece for some time. And the original hoax diary was just a ploy to make it possible — cunninngly and sinisterly devised as a joint enterprise by the fertile minds of Ravi Desai and Jack Shafer!!!