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The Runner
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In this extended riff on Samuels's New Yorker article of the same name, the author pursues James Hogue, portrayed as a cunning, intelligent drifter who at age 28, in 1988, created a new identity for himself as Alexi Santana, a 16-year-old cowboy, who became the Princeton University admissions committee's darling. Santana's Princeton matriculation was delayed because, unbeknownst to school authorities, Hogue was doing time for bicycle theft. One year later, Santana, a talented runner, entered the school without a hitch until a track meet spectator outed the impostor during his sophomore year. Though Samuels has a gift for contextualizing people and events, he misses his mark in this repetitive and fragmented profile. He is so taken by his elusive subject, whom he calls "a convicted fabulist," that he lets Hogue, a compulsive liar and criminal with repeated offenses, off the hook far too easily. To Samuels, Hogue's behavior is as harmless as the youthful lies the author formerly told strangers on airplanes. But the lie and the con are not one and the same, and the reader winces as Hogue cons his way past Samuels's otherwise intelligent grasp. (Mar.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"Hogue, for all his deceptions, was genuinely an elite runner . . . and Samuels is an elite narrative journalist, a master at teasing out the social and moral implications of the smallest small talk, of the way people turn their heads or slide into non sequitur as they try to explain themselves." --Keith Gessen, The New York Times Book Review "[T]erse, passionate, and complicated." --James Hannaham, The Village Voice "Haunting . . . Samuels succeeds in showing a man who's not really sure if he even exists." --Richard Rayner, Los Angeles Times "Hogue, for all his deceptions, was genuinely an elite runner . . . and Samuels is an elite narrative journalist, a master at teasing out the social and moral implications of the smallest small talk, of the way people turn their heads or slide into non sequitur as they try to explain themselves." --Keith Gessen, "The New York Times Book Review" "[T]erse, passionate, and complicated." --James Hannaham, "The Village Voice" "Haunting . . . Samuels succeeds in showing a man who's not really sure if he even exists." --Richard Rayner, "Los Angeles Times"

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