Bunk by Kevin Young


Has the hoax now moved from the sideshow to take the center stage of American culture?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 ...

Details Bunk

Release DateNov 14th, 2017
PublisherGraywolf Press
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Psychology, Sociology

Reviews Bunk

  • Kathleen
    My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty...Most people probably know that the word “bunk” is short for “bunkum,” meaning insincere talk, claptrap or humbug. Fewer people are likely familiar with the word’s etymology, coined out of racial unrest in 1820 in relation to the Missouri Compromise, which admitted Missouri as a slave state. That year, on the floor of the 16th Congress, even though an immediate vo...
  • Tony
    BUNK: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News. (2017). Kevin Young. ***1/2.I have to admit up-front that I did a lot of skimming while reading this book. It was not that the book was poorly written or uninteresting, instead, it was caused by the determination of the author to get absolutely every example of all “Bunk” into his study. After a while, all of the examples began to sound the same. I have to admi...
  • Audacia Ray
    Kevin Young’s book is an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) chronicle of the American history of hoaxing. He details many, many hoaxes and highlights the racist dimensions embedded in many of them - because the history of American bad behavior is always a history of racism. The book is dense stuff, injected with Young’s humor, and sometimes I found myself wishing that his editors reeled him in a little, but then a chunk of pages later I wo...
  • Stephanie
    Fascinating (and possibly reassuring) look at the American history of faking it when it comes to information. Definitely not for the casual reader -- the book is dense, full of footnotes, and delves deep -- it is nevertheless quite a ride into the unbelievable.
  • Grace Tenkay
    History, written in a fairly entertaining way.
  • Mike
    Our critical faculties seem neutralized by the lie we are ready to swallow. Bradlee said it: Beware of the lie you want to believe. The old ones are funny; the current ones are terrifying.
  • Peter Mcloughlin
    Kaleidoscopic and wide-ranging but also rambling and unfocused. Young makes a myriad number of points and passing observations about hoaxes, race, history, otherness, conmen, hoaxing, default attitudes in America and elsewhere that play into hoaxers who tell us a story tailored to our preconceptions which revolve around ourselves, our place in the world, and the other. Young uses the idea of a hoax to talk about its place in our culture and its i...
  • Jason Diamond
    A masterpiece. How do you get this into the hands of every high school student?
  • Samantha
    3.75 stars. A lot of mixed feelings here, but reading this was overall a very positive, thought-provoking experience. There is so much research here about the history of hoaxes, and the (not) surprising thing is how much all the fakery is steeped in race and racism. That this book looks at hoaxes through a racial lens really elevates it to the "essential reading" category and provokes a more nuanced discussion of the subject. I think there's some...
  • David
    Required reading for anyone who reads critically, writes for publication and/or academic credit, or creates in any artistic genre and performs/exhibits her work for public audiences.
  • Jennifer
    Kevin Young recounts a history of hoaxes in the United States from P. T. Barnum to the present day, delving deep to look at ways in which hoaxers have influenced events, ideas, and even society as a whole. It's a thoughtful, complex book, one that often points out hoaxes which reinforced racial, gender, and other forms of inequality. Young's work verges on the poetic at times, a book that would be worth a second or third read to really absorb all...
  • Greg
    Hoaxes are "like porn: the goal of the hoax is to see just how long you can keep it up" writes Young. The author takes an encyclopedic approach (often long and dry passages) and gives us a catalogue of the biggest and best hoaxes ever: in other words, the ones we liked most. If you're looking for a rant against certain media outlets or today's politicians, you won't find it here. Young aims at those who "collaborate with the hoax, and collude wit...
  • Christopher Saunders
    Kevin Young's Bunk is an engaging, exhaustive, if somewhat overdone look at the history of American hoaxes and frauds. The book's scope and breadth are commendable; rather than the expected catalog of deceit and misdeeds, Young manages to weave a narrative from incidents as disparate as the Cardiff Giant, Feejee Mermaid and Cottingley Fairies through Jayson Blair, Rachel Dolezal and Donald Trump. Young leans very heavily on sociological analyses ...
  • Russell Fox
    Kevin Young's Bunk isn't, itself, "bunk," but there is a whole lot of posing and pretense in this long, ruminative, and ultimately unsatisfying study of "hoaxes, humbug, plagiarism, phonies, post-facts, and fake news." Young is a poet, and so very often he gets caught away in waxing clever or lyrical about some act of fakery that he is recounting, rather than carefully explaining and critiquing it. The first several chapters work pretty well; for...
  • Nathan Dehoff
    This was a Christmas present that I just finished reading, and it's a fascinating read, but kind of all over the place in what it covers. That's not really bad, but it makes it difficult to sum up the whole thing. Young comments on various hoaxes throughout history, starting in the time of P.T. Barnum and continuing to the present. These include plagiarized works and falsified memoirs, including the Howard Hughes biography and the Hitler Diaries,...
  • Neil Griffin
    This is one of my favorite non-fiction books I've read in the past few years. It advances an original thesis about hoaxes, one which had been sitting in front of my face my whole life but I'd never really thought of, and elucidates it through entertaining examples and very impressive prose.His thesis that the history of the hoax and its cousins, like plagiary and fake memoirs, from Barnum to James Frey, have been one with race at its core. In exa...
  • Dan
    This is a dense read, but Young does excellent research throughout. He's a poet by nature so his prose and style of writing can be all over the place, but he finds ways to weave smaller examples and stories into his larger points. The chapters on Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and JT LeRoy are especially great. I would recommend reading this one slowly, a chapter at a time.
  • Jazz Fan
    This was good, but too detailed. Exhaustive and thorough, I'll give it that. I give it four stars, could have been a five star with better editing.
  • SibylM
    3.5 stars
  • Patrick Book
    Easily one of the most thorough, fascinating cultural analyses I’ve ever read. Amazing!
  • Lance
    I really wanted to like this book. It seemed like something George Carlin might write if he had the inclination to become a conventional scholar rather than a stand-up comedian. But the more I read the book, the more aggravated I became. The book is split between insightful commentary and pretentious nonsense. Bunk has a great core idea: the way in which hoaxes play on our preconceptions, especially preconceptions about race, but muddles that ide...
  • Jon Pentecost
    This book is a hoax.Or more properly, a humbug. A humbug was one of those circus sideshows (like a Feejee Mermaid, a missing link that was actually a black man from Chicago with his hair done strangely, or alien remains that were actually a cow fetus). A humbug claimed to be something other than what it was on the outside, in order to lure the crowds in. But even if you could spot the humbug, you were glad you came, because it was entertaining.In...
  • NC Wilson
    A deep dive into American history through the lens of hoaxes and lies. Well-researched and dense, it could have benefited from more editing. Sometimes enough is better than plenty.
  • Anastacia Russell
    This huge tome has one dead horse that is beat - "White people are racist."
  • Diogenes
    Fascinating essays on how we can all be susceptible to clever, appealing and seemingly magic ways to take advantage of the unsuspecting, the greedy, and the even the skeptical. Tends to be pedantic and moralistic with overly long commentaries that accompany the hoaxes and cons.
  • Todd Stockslager
    Review title: The Greatest showmenSpurred by the recent blockbuster movie "The Greatest Showman", which is a stirring musical but suspect history, I picked this up at my local library to learn more about the real life and times of P. T. Barnum. While Young does begin with 19th century hoaxes like Barnum's 1835 display of the "161 year old" slave who raised George Washington (and his gruesome public autopsy after her death to "prove" the truth of ...
  • Katie
    I find that in my professional life, I spend a lot of time encouraging people to not believe everything they read on the internet. That just because someone somewhere says something is true doesn't necessarily make it so. That the idea that it sounds like it could be true doesn't mean that it is. I try to teach people to be wary of their sources, to gain a basic understanding of source material and help people learn how to check those sources. It...
  • Jay
    In Bunk, Kevin Young gives us a primer of the (mostly American) hoax. Young goes beyond a simple retelling of famous (and infamous) conmen and conwomen and seeks to root out and identify the motives of the hoaxers and the reasons the public believes their lies. This book asks deep, weighty questions of our individual and collective conscience. Unfortunately, Young seems to take the easy route, usually ascribing one of two motives to the charlatan...
  • Elizabeth
    Bunk is an ambitious and smart look at hoaxes that goes further than merely chronicling their history to delve into their practical and theoretical importance and impact. Young explains how the particular brand of hoaxes that pervade what he terms our current "Age of Euphemism" stem from America's historical hucksters and swindlers. In particular, he focuses on how figures such as P.T. Barnum and the purveyors of yellow journalism preyed on (and ...