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Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and…

por Kevin Young

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254681,162 (3.38)16
"Award-winning poet and critic Kevin Young traces the history of the hoax as a peculiarly American phenomenon--the legacy of P.T. Barnum's 'humbug' culminating with the currency of Donald J. Trump's 'fake news'. Disturbingly, Young finds that fakery is woven from stereotype and suspicion, with race being the most insidious American hoax of all. He chronicles how Barnum came to fame by displaying figures like Joice Heth, a black woman whom he pretended was the 161-year-old nursemaid to George Washington, and 'What Is It?', an African American man Barnum professed was a newly discovered missing link in evolution. Bunk then turns to the hoaxing of history and the ways that forgers, plagiarists, and journalistic fakers invent backstories and falsehoods to sell us lies about themselves and about the world in our own time, from pretend Native Americans like Nasdijj to the deadly imposture of Clark Rockefeller, from the made-up memoirs of James Frey to the identity theft of Rachel Dolezal. This brilliant and timely work asks what it means to live in a post-factual world of 'truthiness' where everything is up for interpretation and everyone is subject to a pervasive cynicism that damages our ideas of reality, fact, and art."--Dust jacket flap.… (mais)
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Kevin Young is the poetry editor of the New Yorker, and if you didn't already know that, you'd guess immediately from the style--the book reads like a 500 page New Yorker article, or perhaps collection of articles. The title fairly accurately summarizes the contents, which dip into the lengthy history of America's (and to some extent the world's) complicated relationship with the notion of truth, from P.T. Barnum to "fake news."He's particularly interested in the role of race--from how the black body became an object for public display, stripping them of their humanity, and how our views on race have shaped and enabled hucksters' ability to defraud the public.

Young's background is in literary criticism, and his analysis skews somewhat towards that, rather than to a strictly historical accounting. It's a fascinating read, but not necessarily a purely pleasurable one. ( )
  arosoff | Jul 11, 2021 |
Too long and scholarly for the amount of interest I bring to the subject.
  themulhern | Jul 9, 2019 |
Bunk by Kevin Young is a fascinating account of how people enjoy fooling and being fooled by others. I really found this to be interesting and pretty well done. Apparently, the biggest impetus to hoaxing is race and racism. This is a connection that I would not have made. The author enjoys saying that the hoax reveals the hoaxer. I have heard of things like blackface and the whitewashing of history, but I never figured that a lot of those ideas came from hoaxing and humbug.

The author does have some habits that I find annoying, but these are just nitpicking to be honest. For example, sometimes the author will have a sentence or statement that seems perfectly fine, but he punctuates this sentence with something in parentheses that seems to take away from it somehow.

A lot of the book covers Circus Freaks, people that are supposedly from Africa but were actually born in Ohio or Chicago, Sideshow Acts like the Bearded Lady, authors that faked their body of work that I had never heard of, and so on. The book casts a relatively wide net with what it calls a hoax. You even get famous ones like the Piltdown Man or the Cardiff Giant, both of which are things I am somewhat familiar with. Meanwhile, you also get people like JT LeRoy, an amalgamation of several people created to sell books or something. It even covers situations where ladies had Hysteria, a general term for “being a woman” I guess.

This book is pretty exhaustive in what it covers. While it obviously covers the hoax, it also covers how the hoaxed people react to finding out. Sometimes people merely reacted with bemusement and other times people were insulted enough to file a lawsuit.

The book is very well done, and I probably wouldn’t have even picked it up from the Library if it weren’t for the blurb on the front. The idea of revealing a hoax or a bit of deception seems like something that a lot of people like to do. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Loved this book, it's amazing what people believed, and I suppose in 100 years readers will be saying the same about our era of online hoaxes. The old hoaxes were more fun to read about, I guess since I'm tired of living thru the Trump hoax the new stuff just want as appealing to read about. ( )
  marshapetry | Nov 20, 2018 |
A review of hoaxes in the media, and the popularity of carnival shows, back to the 19th century. Largely literary sources, as opposed to other historical material. The American hope to learnng or see something new, exiting and inspiring and to feel shame and indignation blended with admiration for a clever con when cheated. That thing that Fritz Freling & Mel Blanc satirized when Yosemite Sam demanded Fearless Freep and the high diving act in the classic Loony Tune animation High Diving Hare.
Long and earnest. ( )
  BraveKelso | Apr 14, 2018 |
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"Award-winning poet and critic Kevin Young traces the history of the hoax as a peculiarly American phenomenon--the legacy of P.T. Barnum's 'humbug' culminating with the currency of Donald J. Trump's 'fake news'. Disturbingly, Young finds that fakery is woven from stereotype and suspicion, with race being the most insidious American hoax of all. He chronicles how Barnum came to fame by displaying figures like Joice Heth, a black woman whom he pretended was the 161-year-old nursemaid to George Washington, and 'What Is It?', an African American man Barnum professed was a newly discovered missing link in evolution. Bunk then turns to the hoaxing of history and the ways that forgers, plagiarists, and journalistic fakers invent backstories and falsehoods to sell us lies about themselves and about the world in our own time, from pretend Native Americans like Nasdijj to the deadly imposture of Clark Rockefeller, from the made-up memoirs of James Frey to the identity theft of Rachel Dolezal. This brilliant and timely work asks what it means to live in a post-factual world of 'truthiness' where everything is up for interpretation and everyone is subject to a pervasive cynicism that damages our ideas of reality, fact, and art."--Dust jacket flap.

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