A Quick Note on A.J. Finn

The book world was recently set ablaze by a New Yorker article by Ian Parker, titled “A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions” in which Dan Mallory was shown to be a conman. I will link the article here, and though it is quite the lengthy read, I highly suggest reading the whole thing, because it is truly a remarkable story.

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The Woman in the Window is only the start

It honestly cannot get stranger.

I’m not going to say too much about the actual contents of the article, because I feel it has all already been said, and I do not necessarily want to give him more attention. However, as I had his book up on my “recommended” list under thrillers, I figured it is important to address what can only be described as one of the biggest publishing scandals in recent memory. Plus, I just really, really, really need to talk about it.

It has taken me a week or so to collect my thoughts on the matter, and I just want to say that I regret pushing people to read his book. The article demonstrates quite clearly the fact that his biography has been falsified, but it also proves that his book is potentially at least partly plagiarized, with full swaths of plot lifted from a movie made in 1995, titled Copycat (which honestly just makes me wonder if it really was all just some sort of elaborate performance piece because SERIOUSLY how perfect is that). His book currently sits on my shelf, and I don’t really know what to do with it. Should I donate it? I don’t want to add another book into circulation. Do I throw it away? That, quite frankly, hurts my book loving heart too much. Do I leave it there? That’s currently the conclusion I’ve come to, in part because I like having books I’ve read on my shelf, in part because I don’t know what else to do with it, but also because it kind of thrills me to know that I was somehow tricked. In a weird way, this whole crazy story about Dan Mallory adds a level of excitement that I’m kind of horrified by in myself.

It’s also weird because a part of me wants to reread his book now, and search for clues that might have allowed me to recognize him for the conman that he is. I want to reread it and note the fact that he writes “postman” instead of “mailman” and read it knowing that I should not like it, because then maybe I will come away from it thinking, “oh this book was really bad I don’t know what I was thinking!” and feel smug knowing that at least I have changed my feelings, and can feel less guilty and less like I was conned.

I find it so interesting that we seem to be living through The Age of the Con Man; they are virtually everywhere. Online scams and telephone scams have always been around, but recently there seems to have been an uptick on weird phone calls I get. I could not stop listening to the podcast, Dirty John, and am really excited to watch the television adaptation. Donald Trump is in office. Dan Mallory wrote a NYT Bestselling book and basically tricked the world into thinking he had two doctorates. Why are we so fascinated by the conman? Why are we as a society so easily conned?

I ended up reading a whole bunch of articles after the fact that pointed to misogyny as the primary reason that Dan Mallory got as far into the publishing world as he did. I’ve watched Youtube videos of Dan Mallory recommending books, including The Talented Mr. Ripley on his list of favorite books, and looked for the weird quirks in his cadence and accent that were alluded to in the article. As I was doing all of this extra research it made me wonder if Dan Mallory would ever even actually feel any sort of real repercussions. As much as I want to write him off entirely, The Woman in the Window has already been made into a movie, starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore. He’s got a new book coming out soon, and I don’t think William Morrow is going to not publish it because of all of this press. Because really, I know I am fascinated, and I would not be surprised if other people who prior to this scandal had no interest in reading his books are now considering picking them up. I’m going to be curious to see if Dan Mallory somehow ends up benefitting once again, and in a different way, from his his mountain of lies.

My Current Go-To Recommendations

FOR THE LITERARY FICTION READ:

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

This book will tear your heart out over and over again, through the most intense and in-depth look at some supremely lovable and broken characters. It's been years since I read it, and it sticks with me. Its 800 pages, so it is a definite commitment, but so, so worth it.

The Heart's Invisible Furies, by John Boyne

A beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-mending book that will make you laugh and cry. After finishing this book, I missed Cyril Avery's company and felt compelled to immediately reread it. Though I haven't yet, it is definitely one of those books that I want to return to.  

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng's exploration into identity, belonging, relationships, and the destruction that results from all that is not spoken, is incredibly moving. I found myself relating deeply to all the characters, and loving all of them, despite of and because of their biggest flaws.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

This is one of those books that sneaks up on you, and out of nowhere you find your heart breaking for a character who initially you had thought was merely rather quirky and off-kilter. Beautiful, moving, funny, and dark, this book can make you cry from laughter and heartbreak all in the same paragraph, or even maybe in the same sentence.

While Oleander, by Janet Fitch

It has been a while since I have read this book, and it remains in my all-time favorites list. It is an exploration of a young girl coming of age through extremely difficult circumstances, and trying to grapple with her mother's crimes. 

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews

Another book from years past, this book has remained in my heart and mind as an incredibly difficult, beautiful read. It is about music and family and sisterhood, as well as suicidal and depressive mindsets, and the grey area that surrounds what one should be allowed to decide for themselves.

Beasts, by Joyce Carol Oates

This small, little novella packs a huge punch. It is one of those books that I have picked up again and again throughout the years. Set in university, it is gothic and suspenseful, almost mystical, while maintaining and incredibly grotesque and visceral hold on reality. It deals with the abuse of power of an enigmatic professor yields over his young, bright, naive students. I have an almost compulsive reaction to this book - I cannot seem to get enough of it.

 

FOR THE THRILLER / MYSTERY /SUSPENSE READ:

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins

You, by Caroline Kepnes

 

FOR THE LIGHTER READ:

One Day in December, by Josie Silver

Playing With Matches, by Hannah Orenstein

The Hypnotist's Lovestory, by Liane Moriarty

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

 

FOR THE CLASSIC READ:

To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

The Importance of Being Ernest, by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy

 

FOR THE YA / CHILDREN'S LITERATURE READ:

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Paper Towns, by John Green

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour

Flight, by Sherman Alexie

 

FOR THE NONFICTION READ:

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward, by Mark Lukach

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

I'll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay