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Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders Hardcover – January 4, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this detailed if uneven meditation, Maliszewski explores the complicated world of deception and those who practice it. The book begins with the author defending his own habit of publishing letters to the editor under pseudonyms while working as a reporter in upstate New York. He describes his actions as satire, although his lengthy, sometimes bitter mea culpa drags by the end. However, his analysis of literary and journalistic deception—a sampling that includes Stephen Glass, James Frey and JT LeRoy—finds nuanced differences between the hoaxes, cons and outright lies while connecting them to universal themes. The book abounds with interviews and anecdotes about con men, art forgers and historical fakes, leading Maliszewski to conclude, Writing, after all, needn't be a mirror in which authors discover only themselves looking back and grinning. The author could stand to take a bit of his own advice, although the book as a whole does provide some interesting insights into the nature of deception. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This fascinating survey of fakers and fabulists begins with a confession from the author that he, too, has been a faker: while he was employed as a writer for a business magazine, he wrote the occasional column under a variety of false identities. But he considered his fakes to be satires, not frauds. On the other hand, there are Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair, journalists who invented magazine and newspaper stories. There’s Clifford Irving, who famously faked an autobiography of Howard Hughes, and James Frey, who faked his own autobiography. There’s the story of a newspaper that announced the discovery of life on the moon, and much more. Maliszewski does not confine himself to simple recitations of the facts. He explores why these fakers undertook their often complex schemes and how they found audiences who would eagerly believe them, even when the schemes themselves would fall apart under close scrutiny. The book is not only about the fakers but also the faked and about our natural desire to believe the unbelievable—as long as the tale is told convincingly. --David Pitt
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 245 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (January 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595584226
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595584229
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,305,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on March 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this relatively brief book, Mr. Maliszewski gives us stories of great confidence men, those who have convinced others of the truth of stories and the originality of art that, in the end, turns out to be a fabric of lies. He also purports to an analysis of why people perpetrate these fakes and why so many of us fall for them. After all, many of these fakes are not particularly good. In this, however, he is not quite as successful.

The stories he tells are, for the most part, fascinating ones both recent and not-so-recent. The story of James Frey and the over-the-top reaction to the outing of his less-than-true memoir was one in a spate of recent scandals--Stephen Glass, Michael Finkel, and "JT LeRoy"--that seemed to provide inspiration to Mr. Maliszewski. And yet, some of the best tales are the older ones: the story of life on the moon printed as fact in the New York Sun in 1835, Abraham Bredius's Vermeer fakes in the decades before World War II, and the poetry fakes in The New Republic in 1916 and in Australia during World War II. Faking is by no means new.

The reasons people produce fakes are a little more difficult to comprehend. Though no one comes out and says it, the main reason seems to be frustration--frustration that Bredius's own work doesn't sell, frustration that magazines print poems by other poets that are worse than yours, frustration that a newspaper wants a story by a deadline that can't be met in a style that the background doesn't provide. Even Mr. Maliszewski's (mostly tedious) stories of his own fake journalism simply indicate his frustration that his work wasn't being taken seriously enough.

Why people swallow fakes is more interesting and understandable. It seems to center around two aspects.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Darrell Reimer on March 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"As my hackwork piled still higher I began to think of journalism not as a series of unique assignments or stories, but as a limited number of ideas and conventions, which each story had somehow to affirm."

Thus begins Paul Maliszewski's short but colorful career as a hoaxer and satirist. As a young employee of the Business Journal of Central New York Maliszewski conned his own newspaper with letters to the editor from fictitious business "titans" who illustrated and inflated the Journal's bias to grotesque proportions. His disgust with his work and the shabby standard to which he was held served to inspire ever crazier letters, which, to Maliszewski's increasing astonishment, were accepted at face value and posted alongside the editorial. The fun didn't come to a stop until the FBI finally knocked on his door at the behest of a satirically implicated governor.

This experience is the platform from which Maliszewski launches his book, Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders. Needless to say, Maliszewski's first impulse when exploring the world of Fakers is often sympathy toward the artists/perpetrators in question. His second impulse is to explore the public mindset that accepts these deceits at face value. Why is a given group of people susceptible to the charms of the most banal fraudulence? Who bears the greater burden of responsibility -- the con or the conned? Under what circumstances?

In the course of this short book, Maliszewski looks closely at frauds celebrated and forgotten, exotic and commonplace, and sifts through the conditions that allowed these cons to succeed. He interviews satirists who receive gullible public response which further enlivens and informs the content of their satire.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As I write this, Bernard Madoff is about to show up in court and plead guilty to defrauding countless investors of countless billions of dollars. It's not really an especially interesting story; Madoff was a fake, but for the baldest of reasons: he wanted to make money. He seems to have been clever about it, for a while, but there wasn't much flair or creativity, and not much motivation beyond lucre. This lack of style on his part would probably have excluded him from Paul Maliszewski's book _Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders_ (The New Press), even if the revelations about his Ponzi scheme had beat the book's deadline. The book is a collection of essays on different fakers, and of course some of them were in it for the money, but even if so, it usually wasn't just for money, but more for fame or for the sense of tweaking the nose of so-called experts. There seems, for instance, to have been a rash of poetry hoaxes, and it is hard to imagine that there is any money to be made in such efforts. The stories are entertaining in themselves, even though they are often summaries of what is contained in longer works, like the chapter on the _Sun_ newspaper's hoax about the population of the Moon, recently covered in book length in the delightful _The Sun and the Moon_. What Maliszewski has done is not just to gather the stories, but to try to evaluate just why the fakers have been successful, or why those who are hoaxed have decided to be duped. Fakers is more often the stories of the faked, and their collusion with the fakers.

To start things off in his first chapter, Maliszewski gets personal, telling the story of reporter Noah Warren-Mann, who in 1998 wrote a profile of the innovative entrepreneur Irving T. Fuller, whose Telopertors Rex Inc.
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