Books: High Diddle-Diddling

THE CONFIDENCE MAN IN AMERICAN LITERATURE by Gary Lindberg; Oxford; 319 pages; $19.95

Con artists are familiar figures in American literature, though they are usually directed through culture's back door. Their calling card was written by a 19th century popular comic character named Simon Suggs: "It is good to be shifty in a new country." Gary Lindberg's elaborate study The Confidence Man in American Literature, uses Suggs and his cronies as models to examine the national character. The task requires the assistance of that old critical handyman, ambivalence.

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