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Fantasyland

How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

By Kurt Andersen

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Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Published In: United States, 05 September 2017
A razor-sharp thinker offers a new understanding of our post-truth world and explains the American instinct to believe in make-believe, from the Pilgrims to P. T. Barnum to Disneyland to zealots of every stripe . . . to Donald Trump. In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, one of our sharpest observers, Kurt Andersen, demonstrates that what's happening in our country today--this strange, post-truth, "fake news" moment we're all living through--is not something entirely new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character and path. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by impresarios and their audiences, by hucksters and their suckers. Believe-whatever-you-want fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA. Over the course of five centuries--from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials--our peculiar love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we've never fully acknowledged. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies--every citizen free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. Little by little, and then more quickly in the last several decades, the American invent-your-own-reality legacy of the Enlightenment superseded its more sober, rational, and empirical parts. We gave ourselves over to all manner of crackpot ideas and make-believe lifestyles designed to console or thrill or terrify us. In Fantasyland, Andersen brilliantly connects the dots that define this condition, portrays its scale and scope, and offers a fresh, bracing explanation of how our American journey has deposited us here. Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand the politics and culture of twenty-first-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must read this book.

About the Author

KURT ANDERSEN is the New York Times bestselling author of novels Heyday, Turn of the Century, and True Believers, as well as the nonfiction title Reset- How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America. He has also written for film, television and the stage and contributes to New York, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. He began his career in journalism at Time, where during the 1980s he was an award-winning writer on politics and criminal justice. He is host and co-creator of Studio 360, the Peabody Award-winning cultural magazine show. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, where he was an editor of the Lampoon. In 2003, New York Magazine named him one of the 100 People Who Changed New York, and in 2008 Forbes.com named him one of The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media. He lives in Brooklyn.

Reviews

"With this rousing book, [Kurt] Andersen proves to be the kind of clear-eyed critic an anxious country needs in the midst of a national crisis."--San Francisco Chronicle "A frighteningly convincing and sometimes uproarious picture of a country in steep, perhaps terminal decline that would have the founding fathers weeping into their beards."--The Guardian "A spirited, often entertaining rant against things as they are."--Kirkus Reviews "A provocative new study of America's cultural history . . . In this absorbing, must-read polemic, Andersen exhaustively chronicles a development eating away at the very foundation of Americanism."--Newsday "Andersen exhaustively explores with wit and extensive research."--HuffPost "A staggering amount of research that's both compelling and totally unnerving."--The Village Voice "This is a blockbuster of a book. Kurt Andersen is a dazzling writer and a perceptive student of the many layers of American life. Take a deep breath and dive in."--Tom Brokaw "This is an important book--the indispensable book--for understanding America in the age of Trump. It's an eye-opening history filled with brilliant insights, a saga of how we were always susceptible to fantasy, from the Puritan fanatics to the talk-radio and Internet wackos who mix show business, hucksterism, and conspiracy theories. Even the parts you think you know already are put into an eye-opening context."--Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci "Kurt Andersen is America's voice of reason. What is he--Canadian? The people who should read this book won't--because it's a book--but reality-based citizens will still get a kick out of this winning romp through centuries of American delusion."--Sarah Vowell "Fantasyland presents the very best kind of idea--one that, in retrospect, seems obvious, but that took a seer like Kurt Andersen to piece together. The thinking and the writing are both dazzling; it is at once a history lesson and an oh-so-modern cri de coeur; it's an absolute joy to read and will leave your brain dancing with excitement long after you're done."--Stephen Dubner "This is an important book--the indispensable book--for understanding America in the age of Trump. It's an eye-opening history filled with brilliant insights, a saga of how we were always susceptible to fantasy, from the Puritan fanatics to the talk-radio and Internet wackos who mix show business, hucksterism, and conspiracy theories. Even the parts you think you know already are put into an eye-opening context."--Walter Isaacson "Kurt Andersen is America's voice of reason. What is he--Canadian? The people who should read this book won't--because it's a book--but reality-based citizens will still get a kick out of this winning romp through centuries of American delusion."--Sarah Vowell "Fantasyland presents the very best kind of idea--one that, in retrospect, seems obvious, but that took a seer like Kurt Andersen to piece together. The thinking and the writing are both dazzling; it is at once a history lesson and an oh-so-modern cri de coeur; it's an absolute joy to read and will leave your brain dancing with excitement long after you're done."--Stephen Dubner

EAN: 9781400067213
ISBN: 1400067219
Publisher: Random House
Dimensions: 24.13 x 16.26 x 3.56 centimetres (0.44 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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