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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 York Hardcover – November 4, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002573
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Goodman (Jewish Food), "Food Maven" columnist for the Forward, encapsulates the enterprising city of New York's schemes and social fabric in an account of the penny newspaper, The Sun's 1835 series purporting to document life on the moon. Assisted by his own talents for fiction writing, Goodman shows how this new working-class organ, by printing fabrications rather than facts (as well as by pioneering the penny per copy press), became the most widely read newspaper in the world. Using magazines, memoirs, and guidebooks of the period, Goodman maintains that the radical English expatriate editor Richard Adams Locke devised the so-called moon hoax to satirize the claims of religious astronomers who believed that God had created extraterrestrial life. This is a rollicking read, perhaps better at conveying a lyrical feel for the time and place than for its scholarly analysis (for which see Sean Wilentz's Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788–1850). Lengthy biographical accounts of P.T. Barnum and Edgar Allan Poe, introduced in part to evince how deception and plagiarism characterized the period, while interesting, are extraneous and little related to the main story. Gracefully worded, footnoted, and with a bibliography, this book's appeal nevertheless is more to the general reader than to the academic. Recommended for public libraries.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

The Sun and The Moon is a terrific read that I highly recommend.
Marta Rose
Goodman weaves fascinating facts and stories about these charming characters into an overall compelling account which reads better than fiction.
Tangerone
Locke was linked to several interesting characters of the time, the most prominent of whom were showman P.T. Barnum and writer Edgar Allan Poe.
James A. Vedda

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By T. Hooper on November 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Sun and the Moon tells the fascinating and true story of Richard Adams Locke and the New York Sun 'life on the moon' hoax of the 1830's.

Goodman weaves a compelling narrative thread that traces the growth of penny newspapers amidst the turmoil of abolitionism and a steady stream of incredible scientific discoveries. Anyone passionate about historical New York and the newspaper trade will be highly entertained by the oddball cast of characters including dueling newspaper editors along with better known personages such as PT Barnum and Edgar Allan Poe. The Sun and the Moon maintains a very readable balance between biography, historical tome and interpretation from a modern perspective.

The moon hoax itself was ground zero for fabulist media coverage that gathered steam in the 20th century with hoaxes like the Shaver Mystery and continues today. Goodman has done some fine detective work on uncovering the heart of this oddball story, as well as highlighting Locke's motivations in writing a satire on the conflict between science and religion that became a legendary story about human nature and our desire to believe. Highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marta Rose on March 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Sun and The Moon is a terrific read that I highly recommend. In it, Goodman tells the intertwined stories of the rise of the tabloid press in New York City in the 1830's, and a marvelous hoax perpetuated by John Adams Locke, the editor of the first and most successful penny paper, The Sun. This hoax convinced most of New York, and eventually the rest of the country and Europe as well, that the noted astronomer John Herschel had invented a "hydro-oxygen telescope" which allowed him to view the moon up close, and that he had found remarkable creatures, including biped beavers that lived in houses, and intelligent -- and apparently immodest -- man-bats. Both of these stories are interesting in and of themselves, and well-told, but Goodman's real genius is to place these stories in various social, religious, scientific and political contexts that both animate them and give them tremendous relevance today. These contexts include the abolitionist movement, and the vicious racism of most of New York and its press; the role of the press and in particular the newspaper in society; the tension between religious faith and scientific inquiry; the quest for intelligent life in the universe; and the thirst most of us share for sensationalism and the bizarre (and our willingness to fork over a lot of money to have that thirst quenched). Woven through this story are several intriguing supporting characters, including Edgar Allen Poe, who was certain Locke had plagiarized his own moon story Hans Phaal (which was itself in large part plagiarized); and P.T. Barnum, who was touring at the time with a slave woman whom he claimed to be the 160 year old nurse-maid of George Washington. The Sun and the Moon is a story meticulously well-researched, imaginatively and entertainingly told, very nicely written, and well-worth reading.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Hoaxes like Ponzi schemes or psychic healings aren't much fun; we have too much sympathy for those who endure losses to schemers. A good newspaper hoax, however, has all the charm of a harmless practical joke. It can promote humor even among those taken in, and can even improve our understanding of ourselves. It is possible that the best newspaper hoax ever was one from 1835, when many New Yorkers, astonished but not incredulous, learned that astronomers had spotted animals, plants, and men with wings going about their livings on the Moon. This rollicking, funny, and revealing story is now told in _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) by Matthew Goodman. The author has dug into mountains of yellowing newspapers and journals to tell the story that not only includes this particular hoax, but also the contemporary hoaxing of P. T. Barnum and of Edgar Allen Poe. He has also given us a lively picture of the world of the penny papers and their circulation wars.

Richard Adams Locke had been talented court reporter, and became editor of _The New York Sun_ in 1835. Locke had an interest in astronomy, but he was a freethinker who detested the way preachers of the time were misusing science by imagining distant worlds. Locke did some imagining himself. John Herschel had published his _Treatise on Astronomy_ to great acclaim, and was then working at the Cape of Good Hope, making observations for the southern hemisphere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tangerone on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant book by author Matthew Goodman, who (in the interest of fair disclosure) was a childhood friend of mine from Great Neck. The book is a wonderful and rich account of New York City in the 1830s and the colorful and charismatic characters that populated it. Goodman did extraordinary and meticulous research to unearth some of the best stories and descriptions of early New York City. Historical figures like Edgar Allen Poe, P.T. Barnum, and newspaper editor Richard Locke jump to life with gusto and giant sized egos. Goodman weaves fascinating facts and stories about these charming characters into an overall compelling account which reads better than fiction. While I read the book, certain maxims kept coming into my head like, "You can't make this stuff up," and "Truth is stranger than fiction." At times I would have to shake myself and remember that the incredible accounts I was reading were, in fact, true events that had actually happened.

Some might say that the incredible Moon Hoax was the main unifying principle of these important stories, and they would be mostly right. The idea that a whole nation could be so transfixed by an imaginative hoax was quite astounding. But for me the climax of the book, and the part that had me howling with laughter, was the hoaxes concerning the slave woman Joice Heth, P.T. Barnum and publisher Gordon Bennet. Goodman paints an irresistable picture of irrascible scoundrels taking the piss out of each other with their scams, double crosses, and juvenile antics. He also renders a pitch perfect depiction of early 19th Century America, and all its robust history and culture. What a wonderful read this was! Matthew Goodman is a very talented writer and storyteller of the first order.
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