Magazine article The New Yorker

Confidence Men

Magazine article The New Yorker

Confidence Men

Article excerpt

On a summer day in the eighteen-twenties, two men brought startling news to New York City's Centre Market. Manhattan, they announced, was sinking. The men explained that the mayor had sanctioned an emergency plan to saw off the bottom half of the island, drag it out into the harbor, turn it head to toe, and reattach it. NEW YORK SAWED IN HALF (Bloomsbury), Joel Rose's semi-fictional re-creation of the hoax, reflects on the peculiar complicity that exists between the duper and the duped; Rose invokes P. T. Barnum's crack that "the common man, no matter how sharp and tough, actually enjoys having the wool pulled over his eyes, and makes it easier for the puller."

Exploiting the public's gullibility has always been the preserve of pranksters and impostors. The sleight-of-hand artist, actor, and author Ricky Jay draws a rogue's gallery of these hustlers in JAY'S JOURNAL OF ANOMALIES (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which includes everything from flea trainers to ceiling walkers to freak-show entrepreneurs. …

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