The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-facts, and Fake News / Kevin Young

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:

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.

Publisher: Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781555977917
Branch Call Number: 001.95 YOU
Characteristics: 560 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Mar 04, 2018

Unfortunately, the author’s viewpoint is too often narrowly focused along racial lines. The majority of hoaxes and put-up jobs seem to redound upon some poor Native or African American. That’s simply not true, and it makes for tiresome reading, in part. Nevertheless, the author makes sterling comments and analysis of the ways in which the liars, plagiarists, and hoaxsters play upon the credulous crowds. That has never been more true than today, when deconstructionism – everything is open to private interpretation and private truth – has atomized society and made everyone a victim (some more, some less), so that more and more people feel free to steal from and gull their fellow man.

Top-notch prose. There’s some really good writing here. Recommended.

Jan 12, 2018

Good read, well researched. Should be companion piece to Noam Chomsky's ', Manufacturing Consent' to get a global understanding of the pr industry.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at EPL

To Top