Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders

Book - 2009
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Why would two poets invent a fake writer, complete with a fake oeuvre and compelling life story, and then submit their fabrication to a literary magazine? Why might a biographer claim to have interviewed Howard Hughes and collaborated on the reclusive billionaire's autobiography despite never having met him? Why would a journalist concoct an eight-year-old junkie and then write an article about him, later winning a Pulitzer Prize for her invention? Why might memoirists pretend to be a Holocaust survivor, a gang member, and a recovered addict with a prison record? And why do we believe such wild fictions that masquerade as the truth? Why are we forever getting fooled by frauds?

Paul Maliszewski explores the teeming varieties of fakery, from its historical roots in satire and con artistry to its current boom, starring James Frey and his false memories of drug-addled dissolution and the author formerly known as JT LeRoy with his fake rural tough talk. Journeying into the heart of our fake world, Maliszewski tells tales of the New York Sun 's 1835 moon hoax as well as his own satiric contributions to a newspaper--pieces written, unbeknownst to its editor, while the author worked there as a reporter. For anyone who has ever lied or been lied to, Fakers tells us much about what we believe and why we still get conned.

The essays in Fakers explore:

Jayson Blair's faked New York Times stories, about Jessica Lynch and much else Early American con artists Oscar Hartzell and the longrunning Drake's fortune scam Internet hoaxes about man-eating bears Han van Meegeren's forged Vermeers Clifford Irving's fake autobiography of Howard Hughes Michael Chabon's fictionalized version of his early years Binjamin Wilkomirski's fabricated Holocaust memoir In-depth interviews with three fakers: journalist Michael Finkel, painter Sandow Birk, and performance artist Joey Skaggs

Publisher: New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2009
ISBN: 9781595584229
Characteristics: 245 p. ; 20 cm


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Aug 25, 2018

Some interesting content but put together in a disjointed style, mostly pertaining to journalistic and literary frauds.

Jul 31, 2012

First off, this wasn't the book I was expecting. I wanted more about cons and others who present fake images of themselves, in person. This book tends more to literary frauds.
My second comment is that, despite the reviews to the contrary, there isn't all that much analysis. In some places he goes beyond asking very interesting questions, but not often, and three of the sections are simply transcribed, hardly introduced interviews.


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