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Letters to eBay: Hilarious Auctions, Crazy Emails, and Bongos for Grandma    by Art Farkas order for
Letters to eBay
by Art Farkas
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2007 (2007)
Softcover, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

In a similar vein to the Darwin Awards, Bad Cat, and the Book of Bunny Suicides, Letters to eBay is not a deep or contemplative book, but rather one about strange auctions that have been posted on eBay and one man's responses to them (via an alter ego). The result is the perfect book to have lying around the house on a coffee table next to the New Yorker, or to take on a trip, as I did: a hilarious and entertaining read that you can just pick up and turn to any page.

Art Farkas is not a real person, as you have possibly guessed. The real author behind this book created the pseudonym and fake character one night in August 2005, when he decided to check out auctions on eBay. As he looked through friends' auctions, as well as others, an alter ego began to develop who would question and challenge and befuddle the claims made by people on their auctions. The result was Art Farkas, 'America's top cyber-prankster.'

Here are some examples. An auction was listed for a large decorative bird cage, and at the bottom it made the promise to be worry free. Farkas seizes on this, contacting the auctioneer with a question about whether this will cure his constant worrying about everything: 'I worry about simple and great things of the world including whether sippy cups are really safe, the GNP of Hungary, and the number 72.' The result is the amusing response from the auctioneer who explains in sincerity that the bird cage will not cure Farkas' problem.

An unusual collector of vintage traps lists a Large Lucien Legeard trap. The auctioneer explains that while these traps were made illegal in 1904, they are still excellent collector's pieces. Farkas contacts the auctioneer, setting up a story that he and a group of older men engage in a live-action game like The Fugitive, where they are all chasing one man. His question is whether the trap would work well to catch a man. Farkas receives the amusing response that the trap would not work well and that any person could easily break free of it. 'The British did have a man trap with double springs and plain jaws. But when these come up for auction they are terrible expensive because of their rarity.' As is the problem with all written Internet communication, one is never sure of the emotion behind a comment or e-mail. In this case, the auctioneer may well think the story is true, which is just bizarre; or may see the prank that Farkas is playing, choosing to play along.

The result is a collection of responses from people who had pranks played on them, and the question is whether they fall for it or not. The more I read the book, the more I felt like just after closing Book of Bunny Suicides; it is an unsettled feeling in the gut, as this just feels wrong. Nevertheless, it really depends on the reader. Some who read Letters to eBay will, like me, feel that a lot of innocent people are being conned and tricked; while others will just be LOL (laughing out loud). Ultimately, this book has a little something for everyone.

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