Monday, February 3, 2014


I'm not quite sure why I starting thinking of scams, though I suppose they are tangentially related to double-dealing and dishonesty more generally.

There are a few classic literary "scams" where the narrator is scamming the reader.  Of all the unreliable or semi-dishonest narrators, I think my favorite is the one from Ford Maddox Ford's The Good Soldier.  That is such a good novel.  I will definitely have to read that again one day.  Personally I wasn't nearly as taken by the dishonest narrator of Martin Amis' Success, though it was somewhat curious to have to (mentally) go back through half the chapters and take them in a totally different light.  I think where I had some problem with this convention (of the unreliable narrator) is that this was all interior monologue, and one would have to be so unbelievable deluded to lie to oneself to that extent about one's job and social life.  I mean really, why would anyone go to that much trouble?

Certainly some novels go into great detail about scams (where the reader is in on the caper).  I think the most extensive is probably Les Liaisons dangereuses.  On the whole, my feeling is that scams and capers work just a bit better on the screen (The Sting, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Trading Places) where the fast pace of cinema (compared to reading a novel) can overcome the inevitable plot holes.  

Still, it can be interesting reading about small cons in novels (when they don't overwhelm the main narrative).  I think I did like Molly Keane's Conversation Piece a bit more because the father was just a bit of a scoundrel who managed to keep putting one over on his relatives. I'm sure I can come up with a few other examples, but I'm blanking at the moment.

I've only been scammed a few times, but every one still rankles, since there is such an abuse of trust involved.  I guess one may not even count as a scam, but I am still out $20 with no prospects of getting it back.  I was at a gallery in the Downtown East Side and they were publishing a small book of transit photos.  Well, I kept coming back to pick up the book, and it was just never ready.  And of they never called as promised.  The last time I went by, the gallery had closed with a sign directing people to some on-line site.  I will try one last time to go through the particulars to either get my cash back or the printed book, but I am not holding my breath.

The other is more genuinely upsetting.  It was late at night in Chicago, and a Black woman came by and pounded on my door.  She claimed to be from the floor below and that she needed taxi fare to get to her job or something.  She had some elaborate set of explanations, including a phone number I could call.  I kept pushing her away and she finally said something like you don't believe me do you.  Playing up the Black-white thing and so forth.  It is very hard to look someone in the eye and say you think they are lying to you.  Particularly inside an apartment complex when you are supposedly neighbors.  It isn't nearly so hard in the open square.  Anyway, at the end of the encounter, I was only out $20, but it still is upsetting that people will willingly erode trust in others for such a short term gain.  It is what is so odious and noxious about common criminals.  They are willing to smash other people sense of security for what is generally a small gain.  I do loath such people.  I generally don't think they can be rehabilitated, so in this arena, I tend to favor the harsher sentences found in the States rather than the quite light sentences for property crimes that are found in Canada and the U.K.

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