Bunk

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Award-winning poet and critic Kevin Young traces the history of the hoax as a peculiarly American phenomenon—the legacy of P. T. Barnum’s“humbug” culminating with the currency of Donald J. Trump’s “fake news.” Young then turns to the hoaxing of history and the ways that forgers, plagiarists, and frauds 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. Disturbingly, Young finds that fakery is woven from stereotype and suspicion, with race being the most insidious American hoax of all. Brilliant and timely, Bunk 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 contagious cynicism that damages our ideas of reality, fact, and art.