The Sun and the Moon
The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Cen
By Matthew Goodman
(Basic Books, Hardcover, 9780465002573, 384pp.)
Publication Date: November 2008
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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 moonincluding 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 lifethe 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.
Matthew Goodman’s nonfiction writing has appeared in The Forward, The American Scholar, Harvard Review, Brill’s Content, and The Utne Reader. He is the author of Jewish Food: The World at Table. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children.