The age we live in is rife with disputes over what should be agreed-upon facts. The assassination of John F. Kennedy is the most notable of these controversies, and there are people who believe that the moon landing happened on a Hollywood set, that the U.S. government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, and many other examples.
Victor Chen tells how his ordinary, unremarkable life was taken over at an early age, first, by his sense of becoming a figure of gossip as an anonymous writer for The New Yorker, and then by his encountering more and more stories in the media that seemed to be shams, fictions, and allegorical charades. Sometimes he has found himself to be an apparent living key, a basis for media enactments and misinformation. Despite being treated by psychiatrists and led or misled by his family, he has returned again and again to such paranoid notions.
Chen was born in China and educated in the U.S. and Britain, gaining degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Oxford. He was married to a woman he calls Eve, and he believes that one purpose of the project was to eavesdrop on their life together. This book has been followed by four others: Unintended Results (2003), Lines in the Dirt (2005), Willingly Published (2005), and Anti-politics (2010). The Age of Illusion consists of essays, parodies, poems, stories, and a memoir telling how Chen came to his views. This second edition has a new preface that comments on a few high points of the story.