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Book Review

Book Review: 'Bunk'


Kevin Young’s official website lists him as a poet, essayist, professor, editor, and Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. To be up-to-date we need the option of New Yorker poetry editor, a post he began in November. 

A Topeka native, Young’s passion for writing came at the age of 13.  I don’t think he’s wasted a moment of his life, having written 11 books of poetry, edited eight collections of writings, and written two extensive works of nonfiction.  


His latest book, Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News, investigates deceit in 200 years of American culture and how untruths become the fabric of our lives. Young teaches us the difference between the humbug of P.T. Barnum and the unrepentant lies of our president and Clark Rockefeller. He illustrates how as Americans our gullibility is rooted in our suspicious and stereotypical assumptions. Finally, he exposes our smugness when the lie is outed… we are as quick to an I-told-you so as we were to the hunger for the so-called truth.   

Young entertains with his erudition and solid facts, his original thinking and impeccable narrative writing skills.  

Marlon James notes that with this “unexpectedly essential” volume, “Kevin Young is giving us [a] book we greatly need, cleverly disguised as a book we merely want,” emphasizing that to look at the world without facts is to look at the roots of our own self deceptions that are based on racism, classism, and our own inability to stand up for the truth.