Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Pretenders

Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Pretenders

Book rating: 01 Hardback

By (author) Paul Maliszewski

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  • Publisher: The New Press
  • Format: Hardback | 245 pages
  • Dimensions: 137mm x 193mm x 28mm | 363g
  • Publication date: 11 June 2009
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1595584226
  • ISBN 13: 9781595584229
  • Sales rank: 13,211

Product description

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

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Author information

Paul Maliszewski has published his fiction and essays in Bookforum, Harper's, Granta, and the Paris Review, and his stories have twice received a Pushcart Prize. "Fakers "is his first book. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer reviews

By Ruth Sard 19 Jun 2013 1

Engagingly written, the first section of the book into Paul Maliszewski's own writings is both sad and amusing - amusing because so many of the examples he gives are obviously satirical, sad because these articles were believed due to the expectations of their readers and publishers.

The entire book is a tribute to the fraud and fakeries of phony journalism and (mainly) writing (from deliberate misrepresentation to lazy fact checking and plagiarism which allows the internet-moderated version of gossip and 'chinese whispers' to bring 'reality' to what isn't) to some examples ranging from art fraud to plain cons. Unfortunately (or should that be fortunately?) the result seems to be a bland recitation rather than a study - an impression strengthened by the lack of any kind of bibliography (or even a short index).

The book is a light, generalist introduction to the field (as it were) , but if you are interested in more detailed who/when/where/why and how you'll want to delve further and I, at least, was left feeling mildly dissatisfied. A read for a day when concentration is low.

Review quote

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 (12/15/2008)