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The Runner

A True Account of the Amazing Lies and Fantastical Adventures of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue

List Price: $14.95

February 9, 2010 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 192 Pages | ISBN 9781582435046
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“... 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.” —New York Times Book Review

The Runner tells the remarkable true story of a drifter and petty thief named James Hogue who woke up one cold winter morning in a storage shed in Utah and decided to start his life anew. Re-imagining himself as a self-educated ranch hand named Alexi Indris-Santana who read Plato under the stars and could run a mile in under four minutes, Hogue applied and was accepted to Princeton University, where he excelled academically, made the track team, became a member of the elite Ivy Club, and dated a millionaire’s daughter.

Echoing both The Great Gatsby and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the story of Hogue’s life before and after he went to Princeton is both an immensely affecting portrait of a dreamer and a striking indictment of the Ivy League “meritocracy” to which Hogue wanted so badly to belong. Drawing elegant parallels between Hogue’s ambitions and the American myth of self-invention, while also examining his own uneasy identification with his troubled subject, author David Samuels has fashioned a powerful metaphor for the corruptions of the American dream, revealing his exceptional gifts as a reporter and literary stylist.

About David Samuels

DAVID SAMUELS is a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, where sections of The Runner first appeared. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

Praise

“Samuels sees moral ambiguity and relies on indefatigable reporting… [to tell] a story that took Samuels to Princeton, Telluride and Hogue’s hometown in Kansas, that led him to public records and private papers and demanded that he clock many hours with Hogue’s childhood friends, Princeton classmates and Colorado marks… By blending extensive research with what Gay Talese has called ‘the fine art of hanging out,’ Samuels… manages to connect meaningfully with his subjects and depict their messy lives with sympathy, insight and grace.” —The Nation

“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.” —New York Times Book Review

“The story of his life would have little, if anything, to do with whatever version of the story I might choose to write,” Samuels notes. This is no writerly cop-out, but a profound truth about the slipperiness of identity… Samuels succeeds in showing a man who’s not really sure if he even exists.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Terse, passionate, and complicated.” —Village Voice

“The grace with which Samuels unravels the complex character of James Hogue testifies to the author’s reputation as a beloved heir to the New Journalists of the 1960s.” —Time Out New York

“A meticulous account of an experiment in taking the American dream to its most radical end… a mesmerizing, perfectly conceived addition to the literature of American reinvention.” —Brooklyn Rail

“It captures beautifully America’s barriers to entry to education and wealth, the last thirty-five years of attempts to level that playing field with new ‘diversity’ boundaries and rules of play, and how the ball takes its funniest bounces when a dishonest, brilliant aspirant comes off the bench to work it all.” —Stop Smiling

“The tale of Hogue’s time in Telluride and his Princeton years is particularly engaging and detailed. [The] portrait of Hogue reveals a truly complex figure who is driven, intelligent, incredibly well-read, deceitful, arrogant, scrappy, athletic, curious and, in a way, pathetic in his need to pretend to be someone else.” —Playboy

“A dizzying, exhilarating tale of deception, duplicity and the search for personal identity.” —Kirkus

“David Samuels’s work offers a rare synthesis of a superb storytelling talent and a subtle intellect that makes his prose both highly entertaining and deeply thought-provoking.” —Ron Rosenbaum, author of The Shakespeare Wars and The Secret Parts of Fortune

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