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Nonfiction: History
Unabridged   20.5 hour(s)
Publication date: 11/14/2017

National Book Award Fiction Longlist
LA Times Best Books 2017
2018 National Book Critics Circle Awards Finalist


The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781681687100
Digital Download ISBN:9781681687117


Award-winning poet and critic Kevin Young tours us through a rogue's gallery of hoaxers, plagiarists, forgers, and fakers—from the humbug of P. T. Barnum and Edgar Allan Poe to the unrepentant bunk of JT LeRoy and Donald J. Trump.

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Product Description

Bunk traces the history of the hoax as a peculiarly American phenomenon, examining what motivates hucksters and makes the rest of us so gullible. Disturbingly, Young finds that fakery is woven from stereotype and suspicion, 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 Grey Owl and Nasdijj to the deadly imposture of Clark Rockefeller, from the made-up memoirs of James Frey to the identity theft of Rachel Dolezal. In this brilliant and timely work, Young 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.


“Willis has the ability to vocally draw out the drama and tension of any scene or description, making the audiobook an exciting listen that will leave listeners more skeptical and critical about what they read and hear.” —AudioFile

“Read by Mirron Willis, who provides a clear and dramatic tone to accent the history and focus in a title that considers historical hoaxing and how forgers, journalistic fakes, and others invented back stories and lies to promote a particular worldview of 'truth' and 'reality'. —Donovan’s Literary Services

“Mirron Willis's solid, clearly enunciated, and steady paced reading helps listeners focus on this deeply researched but embarrassing legacy.” —Library Journal

Bunk, a panorama, a rumination and apolemic at once, asks more of the reader. It delivers riches in return. . . . Bunk is a reader’s feast, a shaggy, generous tome with a slim volume of devastating aphorisms lurking inside; it also shimmers with moments of brief personal testimony."―Jonathan Lethem, The New York Times Book Review

"This dense and wide-ranging critique offers a fascinating view of the impact of fraud on truth." —Library Journal Starred Review

"As we adjust to life with a president who plays fast and loose with the truth and whose backstory arouses growing skepticism, this examination of the long and colorful history of hoaxes and cons is most welcome. . . . Compelling and eye-opening." —Booklist Starred Review

“Young chronicles a distinctly American brand of deception in this history of hoaxers, fabricators, liars, and imposters. . . . [He] astutely declares the hoax a frequent metaphor for a ‘deep-seated cultural wish’ that confirms prejudicial ideas and stereotypes. . . . Young’s remarks on race and his comparison of Trump and Barnum, both of whom gained power from spectacle, in the book’s coda are well worth sifting through.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"A fascinating, well-researched look at the many ways Americans hoodwink each other, often about race."―Kirkus Reviews

Author Bio

Kevin Young is the author of a previous book of nonfiction, The Grey Album, and eleven books of poetry, including Blue Laws, which was long-listed for the National Book Award. He is the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.