Saturday, May 02, 2009

Book Review: "The Sun and the Moon"

I love a good hoax, and Matthew Goodman's The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York (Basic Books, 2008) tells the story of a few of them. Central to Goodman's work is the famous Great Moon Hoax, perpetrated by the editors of the New York Sun in the late summer of 1835, but some of Barnum's best humbugs are detailed here, along with a couple by our good buddy Mr. Poe.

Goodman summarizes the hoaxes, profiles the hoaxers, and limns the receptions of and reactions to the hoaxes as they played out over the short and long terms. The book also examines the always-interesting world of 19th-century urban newspaper journalism, with its nasty editorial rivalries, occasionally questionable editorial and business practices, and fascinating characters.

Recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in the history of journalism, or who enjoys a good old-fashioned prank.