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Phony!: How I Faked My Way Through Life Paperback – September 23, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Ten years ago, at the age of 25, first-time author Stanfield was involved in a bitter custody battle with her ex. Although an experienced bookkeeper, she lacked a college degree and couldn't make enough money to support her daughter and her lawyer. And so, by fudging her resume with a nonexistent business administration degree, Stanfield founded an improbably successful managerial career on a lie. After struggling to make money on commission as a stockbroker, she lands a Business Manager position in the accounting department of an engineering firm, and eventually climbs her way to "success, respect, and moolah," not to mention a 300-person staff. Unfortunately, Stanfield was so used to "faking it," she couldn't stop even for "making it." Already suffering from anxiety attacks, Stanfield's situation goes from bad to worse when her boss is discovered to have swindled $50 million from the company, and all the employees come under close scrutiny. Unfortunately, Stanfield's plunge to the bottom, "overwhelmed with guilt, humiliation and regret," and climb back to a happy medium-she's now a happy dog trainer-make a somewhat overblown addition to the confessional memoir genre.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"[T]his plot-heavy memoir will keep scandal-hungry readers more than entertained." --Hipster Book Club
"...a striking and informative read and recommended for both business and general-interest collections." --The Bookwatch/Midwest Book Review
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Top customer reviews
There was nothing unique about the author's story, and just because she made almost six figures a year doesn't mean her job was worth writing about. Worst of all, she constantly brags about her looks, intelligence, and leadership skills. On the other hand, it seems like her low self-esteem concerning her lack of a college education was the only reason she lied on her job applications in the first place. If it were more of a soul-searching memoir, this paradox could have been an interesting crux for the book, but her writing style is more suited to amateur journalism than creative memoir. The two most interesting parts of her story were glossed over -- her relationship with her sister, and her extramarital affair's effect on her second marriage.
We're treated to a revolving door of boyfriends and bosses, but we get to know none of them. Sure we get a thumbnail description of each one - this one was all hands, this one was nice - but nothing detailed enough to give us a sense of their character. It's like listening to a friend reel off a list of bad relationships in a bar, and even though you might want to ask her questions you can't, because she doesn't want you to ask any questions.
According to Stanfield, she developed a pattern of lying out of a desire to please her father. Blessed (she says) with an amazing ability to "read people," she got into the habit of telling them what they wanted to hear. She lied to please her boyfriends, and her bosses. Eventually she started lying about having a college degree. Armed with lies and sex appeal, she works her way into a string of financial jobs. She earned good money, which she lavished on herself and her (2nd?) husband, but she lived in terror of being exposed for the phony she is.
One of the problems with this book is that Stanfield is pretty irritating. She tells us early on that lying made her feel "smarter" than the people who believed her, and you can see this sense of superiority underlying most of what she says. I didn't think her ability to "read people" was terribly amazing (if you compliment people, they like you! Who knew?). She also doesn't seem to "get" that most people don't detect a pathological liar because most people *don't lie* about things like where they're from and what their job is. I guess I was hoping to get a little more insight into the life of a con artist (which is what Stanfield admits she is), but she's not a very clever con artist. You can tell when you're reading it that more than one person knew there was something wrong with her, but either decided she was just incompetant, or didn't care to pursue it.
But at the end of the day the worst thing about this book is that it's boring and badly written. Stanfield lies her way into one job, and then she uses that job to get another one. And another one. And apart from the lying part, there's nothing particularly interesting about what she's saying.
Also, the book is just *badly written.* Simple sentence after simple sentence, lumped together like cold, congealing oatmeal. That's fine in a magazine article, but gets steadily more boring in a book. And I guess it also undermined the book for me. Reading Stanfield's writing after its been copyedited and polished by other eyes, you can still see how basic it is. You can *tell* she probably didn't go to college. So I come away from this book thinking that she probably didn't fool people as much as she believes.