Truth and lies are two sides of the same coin. But who's flipping it? A thought-provoking and brilliantly entertaining work of nonfiction from one of the world's leading deceivers, the creator and star of the astonishing theater show and forthcoming film In & Of Itself.
Derek DelGaudio believed he was a decent, honest man. But when irrefutable evidence to the contrary is found in an old journal, his memories are reawakened and Derek is forced to confront--and try to understand--his role in a significant act of deception from his past.
Using his youthful notebook entries as a road map, Derek embarks on a soulful, often funny, sometimes dark journey, retracing the path that led him to a world populated by charlatans, card cheats, and con artists. As stories are peeled away and artifices are revealed, Derek examines the mystery behind his father's vanishing act, the secret he inherited from his mother, the obsession he developed with sleight-of-hand that shaped his future, and the affinity he felt for the professional swindlers who taught him how to deceive others. And once he finds himself working as a crooked dealer in a big-money Hollywood card game, Derek begins to question his own sense of morality, and discovers that even a master of deception can find himself trapped inside an illusion.
A M O R A L M A N is a wildly engaging exploration of the fictions we live as truths. It is ultimately a book about the lies we tell ourselves and the realities we manufacture in others.
About the Author
Derek DelGaudio is a writer and performer, primarily known for his highly-acclaimed theater show, IN & OF ITSELF. He served as the Artist in Residence for Walt Disney Imagineering and cofounded the performance-art collective, A.BANDIT. Mr. DelGaudio lives in New York City.
ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
“This is a book about honesty, deceit, and the short distance that lies between. It is a straightforward gaze at the blurry intersection of fact and fiction, and its revelations ultimately arouse suspicion about everything.” —Steve Martin
"Every magician is, or wishes they were, masters of secrecy and deception. But what if you are a magician who doesn't want to deceive? Derek DelGaudio has given us a story about how and where we find truth, and he takes us through some very dark places to get there. We learn how a nice young man became a professional card cheat in a most dangerous game, we learn about magic, and about the shadows in Plato's Cave, about illusion and reality, until we finally discover that the book in and of itself is a magic trick -- one that holds out the hope that we can all learn to walk out of the deceptive and cavernous darkness and into the light." —Neil Gaiman
"The old hustler’s adage holds that “the game is sold, never told” — meaning that anything you learn will cost you. AMORALMAN is a riveting ledger of one man’s education, a parable about the lines between grifters and marks, a moral man and an amoral one. Buy this book — it’s cheaper than not buying it." —Jelani Cobb
“A sublime enlightenment. A disappointment only in that it came to an end.” —Tom Hanks
“AMORALMAN now joins The Matrix in proving you can turn French philosophy into compelling entertainment.” —Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Times
“In a magic trick, the moment of revelation is essential: the spectators are amazed, not only because what they’re seeing defies explanation but because they should have seen it coming all along. The end of DelGaudio’s story has that effect, but instead of an ace of spades there’s a moral epiphany—an existential ta-da!” —Michael Schulman, The New Yorker
"A boy enthralled by magic becomes an accomplished swindler . . . In his entertaining debut memoir, performer, artist, and magician DelGaudio recounts his transformation from a child who loved magic tricks to a professional card cheat immersed in a world of high-stakes grifters . . . Throughout, he creates animated portraits of the many nasty characters he encountered and conveys a vivid sense of the greed and deception pervasive among gamblers, shills, and liars . . . A lively tale of immersion in—and escape from—the underworld." —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] masterly memoiristic account of lying and self-deception. . . . This is a story of unending ironies and misconceptions. That which we expected to be the truth is a lie, or at least a partial fiction. Anecdotes could be true, but falsely attributed. Intentions could be and are misrepresented or misunderstood. Good guys turn out to be bad guys and vice versa. And the purpose of magic and sleight-of-hand in such a universe? It goes back to Plato’s cave, which reminds us that things are always different than they seem. We misunderstand context. We confuse shadowy representations for the things in and of themselves. We live in a shadowy, fictional world...[And yet there] is a belief that life is not less than what it seems, but more. We are limited by how we see ourselves, and once we shed those blinders the possibilities are endless. . . . “I am not interested in fooling people,” DelGaudio tell us. “It’s about truth. To know illusions is to know reality”. . . . His deepest epiphany comes when he realizes that the game of duplicity that he’s running is being run on him. He is duping others, but he is also duping himself. Like Plato’s cave, nothing is as it seems.” —Errol Morris, The New York Times
"This is an absolutely thrilling and unique book. It’s a memoir with the page-turning excitement of a great mystery, and a delightful glimpse into the world of deception that is also a profound philosophical investigation. It is the luminously written, achingly vulnerable story of a human heart. A masterpiece." —Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theater
"A stunning work! Derek describes a time when he lived in the dangerous shadows of life; when he struggled, like many of us do, to unshackle himself from the perceptions that others had of him and that he had of himself. Beautifully written, we can feel Derek’s heart beating on every page as he tries to find his own truths." —Frank Oz
“Derek DelGaudio’s AMORALMAN is such a rarity, a work of thoughtful, honest self-awareness that isn’t quite like anything I’d ever read before. . . . It’s a story of truth that is unafraid of untruth, which might sound contradictory, but when you delve into DelGaudio’s words, it makes perfect sense. This book is magic in multiple senses of the word. It is magic because it is narratively transportive, a book that sweeps the reader up into the world being created, pages crammed with vivid storytelling. But it is also magic in the performative sense, in that it is also about the art of stage magic, specifically sleight-of-hand. And it is magic in that it allows its author to reinvestigate his own history, to use the perspective of the present to change his view of the past – a transformation of both the man he is and the man he once was. . . . AMORALMAN is everything I want in a memoir, including a few things that I didn’t even know I wanted before I read it. It is among the most compelling works of autobiography that I’ve ever read.” —Allen Adams, The Maine Edge
"Delgaudio . . . re-confronts some of the key moments and incidents that shaped him and learns that he was not always the good man he believes himself to be today. Written in an open, self-appraising style, the book takes us through the author’s early, formative years, exploring the ways his early interest in (and later obsession with) the art of illusion defined the man he would become. He also delves deeply into his family: the father who disappeared when the author was a boy, the mother who kept secrets, the father-surrogate magic-store owner who introduced DelGaudio to the flimflam men who would become his role models. Any good memoir includes an element of self-discovery, but this one is all about self-discovery, and the truths unveiled are startling, unsettling, and—strangely, considering their nature—inspiring.”—David Pitt, Booklist