Saturday, May 21, 2011

Catch Me If You Can

By Frank W. Abagnale

Three Things I Liked About Catch Me If You Can:
1. Frank’s youth.
2. Frank’s unabashed amusement at his past capers.
3. The truth behind the movie.

Catch Me If You Can is one of my favorite movies. I just have this somewhat random fascination with intellectual criminals, like in Ocean’s 11,The Thomas Crowne Affair, or I Love You Phillip Morris. But of all those criminals, Frank Abagnale probably fascinates me the most.

Frank Abagnale ran away from home when he was 16. Before his twenty-first birthday, he had impersonated a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and a professor, stolen over 2 million dollars in check fraud and was a wanted criminal across the globe, and had evaded capture by the FBI multiple times – even slipping from their custody by “flushing” himself down the toilet of an airplane on the tarmac of JFK. Talk about stranger than fiction. For his crimes, he served time in France and Sweden before he was eventually captured on American soil, charged, and served a truncated sentence in prison. Since his release, he has gone on to work for the FBI, assisting them as one of the world’s foremost experts on fraud.

Though I enjoyed reading Frank’s memoirs and hearing about his capers first hand without the influence of a Hollywood editing team, I do have to say I didn’t get much more out of the book than I got out of the movie. It wasn’t particularly well written, and there weren’t terribly many more exploits detailed in the book that weren’t in the movie. I did enjoy observing the tone in which the memoirs were written, however. Though Frank alludes to periods of anxiety, loneliness, and some twinges of conscience, I think by and large his years as a world-class criminal were enjoyable ones, spent running on the adrenaline of being young and clever and getting away with it – and his tone shows it. Rather than writing a contrite memoir espousing how sorry he is for what he did, how he was just a young boy who went astray, he owns up to his misdeeds with matter-of-factness, a little pride, and a touch of amusement, and I can hardly blame him. After all, there is something inherently both impressive and amusing about an 18-year old kid passing himself off as a Harvard grad and passing the bar exam after a few weeks of studying, or teaching a collegiate sociology class with a fake PhD by reading one chapter ahead, or believably overseeing a shift of hospital interns by hiding in the linen closet to look up terms in a medical dictionary.

Books Read This Year: 46
Top 100 Progress: 44/100

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