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The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New Yorkby Matthew Goodman
Synopses & Reviews
The Sun and the Moon tells the delightful, entertaining, and surprisingly true story of how in the summer of 1835 a series of articles in the Sun, the first of the city's "penny papers," convinced the citizens of New York that the moon was inhabited.
Six articles, purporting to reveal the lunar discoveries made by a world-famous British astronomer, described the life found on the moon — including unicorns, beavers that walked upright, and, strangest of all, four-foot-tall flying man-bats. The series quickly became the most widely circulated newspaper story of the era. And the Sun, a brash working-class upstart less than two years old, had become the most widely read newspaper in the world.
Told in richly novelistic detail, The Sun and the Moon brings the raucous world of 1830s New York City vividly to life — the noise, the excitement, the sense that almost anything was possible. The book overflows with larger-than-life characters, including Richard Adams Locke, author of the moon series (who never intended it to be a hoax at all); a fledgling showman named P.T. Barnum, who had just brought his own hoax to New York; and the young writer Edgar Allan Poe, who was convinced that the moon series was a plagiarism of his own work.
An exhilarating narrative history of a city on the cusp of greatness and a nation newly united by affordable newspapers, The Sun and the Moon may just be the strangest true story you've ever read.
"Goodman offers a highly atmospheric account of a hoax that he says reflects the birth of tabloid journalism and New York City's emergence as a city with worldwide influence. In August 1835, New York Sun editor Richard Adams Locke wrote and published a hoax about a newfangled telescope that revealed fantastic images of the moon, including poppy fields, waterfalls and blue skies. Animals from unicorns to horned bears inhabited the moon, but most astonishing were the four-foot-tall 'man-bats' who talked, built temples and fornicated in public. The sensational moon hoax was reprinted across America and Europe. Edgar Allan Poe grumbled that the tale had been cribbed from one of his short stories; Sun owner Benjamin Day saw his paper become the most widely read in the world; and a pre-eminent British astronomer complained that his good name had been linked to those 'incoherent ravings.' Goodman (Jewish Food) offers a richly detailed and engrossing glimpse of the birth of tabloid journalism in an antebellum New York divided by class, ethnicity and such polarizing issues as slavery, religion and intellectual freedom. B&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The genius of The Sun and the Moon is that it endeavors to explore...why we believe what we believe, particularly when those beliefs go beyond the pale of plausibility." Los Angeles Times
"A fascinating account of the most successful hoax in the history of American journalism." Rocky Mountain News
"Goodman has managed not only to give us a ripping good newspaper yarn but also to illuminate life in the nation's largest city in the early part of the 19th century." Wall Street Journal
"[An] intriguing story and reveals some fascinating facts about nineteenth-century New York." Booklist
"[A] rollicking read, perhaps better at conveying a lyrical feel for the time and place than for its scholarly analysis." Library Journal
"Goodman consistently entertains with his tale of press manipulation, hucksterism and the seemingly bottomless capacity for people to believe the most outrageous things. Absolutely charming." Kirkus Reviews
Book News Annotation:
With tabloid news and television such a common feature of the 21st century media scene, it's easy to forget that there was a time when this form of journalism didn't exist. In this book, Goodman takes us back to the summer of 1835, when the Sun newspaper flooded New York with tales of man bats, unicorns, poppies, and other life forms on the moon, supposedly discovered by a British astronomer. This hoax made the Sun--briefly, at least-- the most widely read newspaper in the world and, in the process, led to the creation of both tabloid journalism and the modern newspaper business. Including characters as well known as Edgar Allan Poe and P.T. Barnum, Goodman's fascinating account of the "Moon Hoax" will find a home on the bookshelves of many readers. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In the tradition of Devil in the White City and The War of the Worlds, the remarkable true story of the hoax that bewildered nineteenth-century America.
About the Author
Matthew Goodman's nonfiction writing has appeared in The Forward, The American Scholar, Harvard Review, Brill's Content, and The Utne Reader. Goodman also received an MFA from Vermont College; his short stories have appeared in leading literary journals, including the Georgia Review, the New England Review, and Witness. He is a lifetime New Yorker and lives in New York City with his wife and children.
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