Bunk : The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News
by Kevin Young


Overview -

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

"There Kevin Young goes again, giving us books we greatly need, cleverly disguised as books we merely want. Unexpectedly essential."--Marlon James

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.  Read more...


 
In Stock.

FREE Shipping for Club Members
 
> Check In-Store Availability

In-Store pricing may vary

 
 
New & Used Marketplace 49 copies from $9.18
 
Download

This item is available only to U.S. billing addresses.
 
 
 
 

More About Bunk by Kevin Young
 
 
 
Overview

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

"There Kevin Young goes again, giving us books we greatly need, cleverly disguised as books we merely want. Unexpectedly essential."--Marlon James

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. 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.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781555977917
  • ISBN-10: 155597791X
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publish Date: November 2017
  • Page Count: 480
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > True Crime > Con Artists, Hoaxes & Deceptions
Books > Social Science > Ethnic Studies - African American Studies
Books > History > United States - General

 
BookPage Reviews

History of the hoax

Poet and scholar Kevin Young offers a history of the hoax and a chilling indictment of our current moment in this ambitious book. Bunk opens in the 19th century—the days of P.T. Barnum, Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe—as Young pulls back history’s curtain to reveal hoaxes, humbug and circus tents with a sideshow of spiritualism and sensationalism.

But Young is not content to remain in the sepia-toned past. “If all of this sounds familiar,” he writes, “it is because the transformative advent of the penny press most resembles the current change demonstrated, if not caused, by the internet.” Shifting effortlessly from the 19th century to the 21st, Young draws connections between words like swindler, diddling and confidence man and contemporary buzzwords like plagiarism, truthiness and fake news. In both eras, a disenfranchised racial other haunts the discourse.

“The exotic other, the dark double” is a key player in historical and contemporary hoaxes, from the colonialists who donned redface to confuse the British during the Boston Tea Party to Nasdijj, a white man who co-opted a Navajo identity in order to publish a variety of written work in 1999 and the early 2000s. Nasdijj was exposed the very month that James Frey admitted to grossly misrepresenting the facts of his life in his bestselling book A Million Little Pieces. More than simply recounting these incidents and dozens more, Young uses them to facilitate his larger goal: a theory of the hoax itself and the fantasies that it reveals. Like a joke that brings down the house, a hoax unites a cunning speaker with a crowd that wants to be fooled. And today the stakes are higher than ever. Young examines the effects of deception on American politics, literature and everyday life. Long-listed for the National Book Award in nonfiction, Bunk is a powerful, far-reaching read.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews