Good books are like recurrent dreams: haunting the reader’s waking hours by sitting, tantalisingly, on the edge of conscious thought. Take, for example, The Big Con: The story of the confidence men, David W. Maurer’s 1940 study of American grifters in the early twentieth century. Maurer’s book has dogged me ever since I revisited my old stamping ground of Berkeley, California, on the eve of Donald Trump’s unlikely ascension to the US presidency. Walking those familiar streets, talking to old friends, watching Trump’s coronation, one of the lessons of The Big Con surfaced in my mind and has done so ever since. Maurer’s rule, which he considered trite but true, was: ‘You can’t cheat an honest man.’ It was a maxim told to Maurer by the gaggle of con artists he interviewed for his linguistic and sociological study. According to the grifters, a person could only be swindled if they had ‘larceny in their veins – in other words, he must want something for nothing, or be prepared to participate in an unscrupulous deal’.
Joel Deane reviews 'Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon cornered culture and undermined democracy' by Jonathan Taplin
Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon cornered culture and undermined democracy
by Jonathan Taplin
Macmillan, $39.99 pb, 286 pp, 9781509847723
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Joel Deane is a speechwriter, novelist, and poet. He has worked in Australia and the United States as a journalist and political staffer – covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention, serving as principal speechwriter to Labor Premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby, and lecturing widely on politics and public language. In 2009, he was a finalist for the Melbourne Prize for Literature Best Writing Award. His new non-fiction book, Catch and Kill: The Politics of Power, will be published by the University of Queensland Press in July 2015.
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