Nov 01, 09
Read in October, 2009
This is a book that is about the 1835 Great Moon Hoax -- a series of articles published in the New York Sun that were presented as being reprints of a scientific journal article describing lunar creatures -- moon bats -- that could be seen with new telescope technology.
In reality, this book covers much than the hoax: it tells the story of early newspapers in America, and especially their transition from relatively expensive six-cent papers, targeted at the upper class, to one-penny papers that tried to please a larger audience.
The author also ties in the Great Moon Hoax to other hoaxes and hoaxers -- part of what made the Great Moon Hoax so great is that it was one of the first hoaxes on such a large scale. To a large degree, it caused people to be suspicious of newspapers and other authority for a long time after it was over.
The book is good, but it does meander a bit. It has a relatively ambitious scope, and I think it tried to extend a little too far -- for example, some of the P. T. Barnum stories were interesting, but they weren't really necessary for this story, and they weren't comprehensive enough to really tell Barnum's story, and I think this book would have been stronger if most of them were left out.