A high-school dropout who worked as a respected professor of physics and an army deserter who served with distinction as a priest, a surgeon, a schoolteacher and a psychiatrist. An Englishman christened Archibald and a black American born hundreds of miles from the nearest teepee, both of whom were revered as "Red Indian" heroes. Several men who were in fact women - and who fought as soldiers, or worked as doctors or craftsmen when such professions were closed to their sex. And the pretender to the Russian throne who, despite actually being a fugitive monk, became Tsar and ruled rather well, until he met a "very" grisly end. These are just some of the fascinating characters examined in Sarah Burton's engaging investigation of lives lived as lies. More than simply an exploration of how impostors succeed and why they feel compelled literally to change their lives, this entertaining and insightful book is also a meditation on identity, truth and trust.
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Impostors: Six Kinds of Liar tells the true life stories of life-long liars. Sarah Burton's colourful characters are ingenious dissemblers who have abandoned failed, frustrated lives to reinvent themselves as glamorous, high-achieving success stories. Her litany of liars includes both strange and familiar pretenders across historical epochs. Anna Anderson who declared herself the Romanoff Grand Duchess Anastasia and the American Dorothy Lucille Tipton, who lived and died as the acclaimed jazz musician Billy Tipton, a married man with kids, are amongst the better known contenders to grand pretension.
Burton offers amusing accounts of less-remembered figures like the Tichborne claimant, the 24-stone butcher from Wapping who presented himself to the mother of the slim, slightly built Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne as her son, missing at sea. There are also profiles of the pathetic, like the recent example of Brian MacKinnon, who posed as Brandon Lee, a student 15 years his junior, so he could go back to school. There are also chapter-length case studies of the lives of bogus explorer Louis de Rougemont, cross-dressing doctor Dr James Barry and racial impressario Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, which provide opportunities for the reader to trace the dimensions of a whole life lived as imposture.
That deception is a matter of perception is a recurring theme of these life stories--people see what they want to see. Burton shows that the impostor's ability to succeed in her imposture is in equal proportion to the willingness of her audience to collude with a plausible deception. In this way, her book is as much a psychological profile of our susceptibility to deceptiveness as it is an entertaining account of the lives of identity fraudsters. Burton's conclusion is that imposture is a matter of degree rather than deviance. We all seek, she argues, to be other than ourselves; projecting an image of an idealised self, "The impostor simply goes further down a road that we are all of us already on." --Rachel HolmesFrom the Publisher:
ACCLAIM FROM THE REVIEWERS FOR IMPOSTORS:
'This is a delightful book, crisply written, well-researched, commonsensical in approach and perceptive in attitude.' Evening Standard
'This is a wonderful subject cleverly presented. Where historical context is needed, it is given lightly and pertinently so that it does not interrupt the marvel of these charlatans' tales.' Earl Spencer, Mail on Sunday
'IMPOSTORS is a goldmine. Here, complete with a variety of exotic settings, are plots galore. Here, personified, are questions and identity and reality, the nature of truth and fiction, all complete with built-in suspense (will-she-won't-she be unmasked?).' Independent on Sunday
'The subject of Sarah Burton's study is real life escapology - the lives and times of ingenious dissemblers who have abandoned disappointing lives to reinvent themselves as glamorous success stories. IMPOSTORS is subtitled SIX KINDS OF LIAR but more than six varieties of mendacity are exposed in Burton's briskly paced and entertaining account.' Times
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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110140282505