Fakers: hoaxers, con artists, counterfeiters, and other great pretenders

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NEW Press, Jan 4, 2009 - True Crime - 245 pages
21 Reviews

Fakers are believed--and, at least for a time, celebrated--because they each promise us, screen-gazing and experience-starved, something real and authentic, a view, however fleeting, of a great thing rarely glimpsed. --from Fakers

From James Frey and his fake memories of drug-addled dissolution to Stephen Glass and his fake dispatches from the fringes of politics to the author formerly known as JT LeRoy and his fake rural tough talk, we are beset by real-seeming fiction masquerading as truth. We are living in the era of the fake.

Fakers is a fascinating exploration of the varieties of faking, from its historical roots in satire and con artistry to its current boom. Paul Maliszewski journeys into the heart of our fake world, telling tales of the New York Sun's 1835 moon hoax, the invented poet Ern Malley (the inspiration for Peter Carey's novel My Life as a Fake), and Maliszewski's own satiric letters to the editor of the Business Journal of Central New York (written, unbeknownst to the editor, while he worked there as a reporter). Through these stories, he explains why fakers almost always find believers and often flourish.

Since 1997, the author has been on the trail of fakers and believers, asking the tricksters why they dissembled and the believers why they were ever fooled. Fakers tells us much about what we believe and want, why we trust, and why we still get duped.

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 long-running 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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - RSard - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Christopher Fox - Goodreads

An entertaining read, this book surveys a large number of fakes (see the subtitle) with a breezy style. Much of the last half though reads rather like a series of book reviews of other literary works ... Read full review


I Faker
Tall Tales and Believers
A Story Born Every Minute

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About the author (2009)

Paul Maliszewski has published essays in Harper's, Granta, and Bookforum, among other magazines. His stories have appeared in The Paris Review, One Story, and BOMB and have been awarded two Pushcart Prizes. Fakers, his first collection of essays, was published by The New Press in 2009. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and son.

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