A thoroughly researched academic study accessible to general readers.




Two sociology professors’ survey of New York con artists and how these reviled but crafty opportunists manage to make a living in the city’s informal economy.

New York City is full of haves and have-nots. But as Williams (New School for Social Research) and Milton (Queensborough Community Coll., CUNY) point out, this description is incomplete because it does not consider one invisible but ever present community: the con artists who take to have. In this book, the authors observe how people locked out of the “masterful” con game of the American dream create, and master, new games designed to temporarily beat the larger con. They base their account, which they call a “collage ethnography,” on direct interactions with nine New York con artists whom they interviewed and followed over the course of several years. What emerges from this collaboration is an intriguing study of the many different types of schemes—for example, dice and numbers games, slum-jewelry and designer knockoff cons, and tenant hustles—in which these men and women engage. Beyond describing how these cons work, Williams and Milton examine the con artist community and the enterprising individuals who inhabit it. They also argue that opportunism is an art that requires mastery of many complex rules. Indeed, con games are really a form of “street theater” that manages to “seduce” unsuspecting citizens into participating in an unfolding drama. What makes the book especially fascinating is the way the authors demonstrate how con games are not restricted by class—or any other social marker. Such behavior also takes place among “respectable” middle-class professionals such as law enforcement officials and, perhaps less surprisingly, wealthy New York business executives. Bold and illuminating, the book is a reminder that no matter how poor or rich people may be, greed—and therefore the capacity to cheat others for our own gain—“is embedded in our social DNA.”

A thoroughly researched academic study accessible to general readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-231-17082-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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