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Summary

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.

©2017 Kevin Young (P)2017 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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Profile Image for Carolinkus
  • Carolinkus
  • 28-11-17

Unlistenable

The subject matter Is one of great interest to me. However, the narration is very difficult to follow. The narration detracts from the book and subject. If I had to do this over I would read the book.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-11-17

Interesting subject awful narration

The subject matter is fascinating and well researched. Several interesting points and analogies are made.
However, and I truly can't tell if it's the narrator (who is awful) or the writing - but I'm finding it impossible to follow or stay focused when listening.
If you're interested in this subject by all means READ the book.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Chynna Blue
  • Chynna Blue
  • 12-12-17

Interesting Content, Difficult Narration

I pre-ordered this book the day I heard Kevin Young speak at the Texas Book Festival. I should have waited to hear the sample, first. Young himself was engaging and interesting, but the reader here sounds dry and stuffy. It was a chore to listen to this one and I'm sorry I did not get the Kindle version instead. I think I would have rated this book more highly if it had had a different reader.

The content is interesting. I knew about many of the hoaxes Young examines in the book, but had never made the connections he makes here - that many hoaxes revolve around race or bigotry and stereotypes. Some hoaxes have obvious victims, but others are less obvious until examined in the lens of the harmful negative stereotypes hoaxes often push on society.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Christian R. Unger
  • Christian R. Unger
  • 25-02-18

Interesting instances and interpretations

Although I don't agree with a lot of the arguments about the parallels of some of the hoaxes story and the parties involved whereby the story (subject) of the hoaxes imitates the story of the hoaxer, especially with some of the case being made in the 'negative space', namely not what is said but what is not, that this parallel can be drawn is interesting. Further the analysis in places feels lengthy, and although all ways considered and insightful, the depth occasionally does seem excessive, and one looses track of all that is outlined. Clearly this is at least partially due to the 'audio' rather than book, for myself.

Great, interesting stories which give an interesting twist on Kurt Andersen's Fantasyland, not in that it gives a different perspective, but an in-depth analysis of the public fraud for fraud's sake rather than the deliberate deception and acceptance thereof.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gavin Ferris
  • 01-03-18

Not a Book

This is not a book. This is a 20 hour Racial Studies dissertation. It’s a good dissertation, with engaging narratives, colorful exposition, and strong analytical arguments, but it definitely reads more like a graduate school research paper run amuck than a piece of prose.

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Profile Image for Owen M.
  • Owen M.
  • 23-02-18

stories are fairly interesting

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

This was a pretty good book... the stories are hit or miss. I enjoyed some immensely... others not as much.

Which character – as performed by Mirron Willis – was your favorite?

Characters were all done well... none in particular stand out. Competent narrator.

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  • Chef Christian
  • 14-02-18

Horrible Narrator

What character would you cut from Bunk?

I could not bear to listen to this. The narrator was positively the worst I have encountered in years with Audible. I couldn't finish it. This has never happened before. What a waste of a credit.

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Profile Image for Susan
  • Susan
  • 18-12-17

no historical narrative

Any additional comments?

The overarching point of this book is this: American culture is full of stories of fakes and frauds, and it is also always, overtly or covertly, dealing with issues of race. Unsurprisingly, then, instances of fraud and fakery are frequently about race in some way. Indeed, the idea of race may be the biggest piece of bunk of all.

This is all fine, but it is not news to anyone who is familiar with academic work in American Studies of the last forty years -- from which this book borrows heavily. And a listener might be forgiven for thinking this was an academic book -- if only because of its stuffy, pretentious writing style. But the similarity to an academic work of cultural history ends there. This book jumps around maddeningly from one instance of trickery to another, and between the US and England, and the 18th century to 21st--all without contextualization or justification. It hints that the reader will get some historical context for fake news and so forth, but aside from a couple of allusions to reality TV, it doesn't offer enough of a coherent argument to shed light on our contemporary moment. The subject matter is so rich that this alone should be enough to sustain a listener's attention, but sadly, it didn't even do that for me.

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  • Christopher
  • 14-01-18

The author blames everything on racism...........

I waded thru this book waiting to find something note worthy. The author blames all the things listed on the front cover all fall to racism. Two thirds of the way thru the book I looked up the author. It seems that racism is his major authoring theme. Granedt there were a few ( very few) good and correct points, however to blame racism for everything instead of personal responsibility is very myopic.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful