Fantasyland

Fantasyland

How America Went Haywire : A 500-year History

Book - 2017
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Explains how the influences of dreamers, zealots, hucksters, and superstitious groups shaped America's tendency toward a rich fantasy life, citing the roles of individuals from P.T. Barnum to Donald Trump in perpetuating conspiracy theories, self-delusion, and magical thinking.
"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and then more quickly in the last several decades, the American invent-your-own-reality legacy of the Enlightenment superseded its more sober, rational, and empirical parts.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."--Jacket.
Publisher: New York : Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, [2017]
Copyright Date: ℗♭2017.
ISBN: 9781400067213
1400067219
Characteristics: xiii, 462 pages ; 25 cm.

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kat1109
Nov 06, 2017

This book is about 100 pages too long. The author makes his case over and over again to the point where I was glazing over and questioning his motivation. He posits a very interesting and credible theory, but he seems to take far too much delight in shaming virtually every aspect of American culture. It seemed elitist and arrogant. And he offered no solutions. No sage advice. I was interested in and open to the theory of the book, but his presentation and tone just turned me off.

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callig
Oct 12, 2017

America as a gigantic barrel of monkeys, all wearing superhero costumes, fighting each other! It, and this book is initially a fascinating and even blackly funny spectacle. What a show! But halfway through I started glazing over, started skimming and dipping. And by the three-quarter mark i'd given up. Talk about knocking down straw dogs. Much of a muchness.
Yes, the author has done a public service by marshalling all this madness and pointing out its commonalities, but it did get rather predictable.
I thought he was a bit harsh on survivalists. If i lived in america i'd want to escape, find a safe hole to hide in when the "excrement interfaces with the air circulation equipment", and surely, given american (environmental etc.) destructiveness, it must. And gun-owners; again, if i was surrounded by heavily-armed self-righteous and violent lunatics I'd be tempted to own a gun. A self-feeding firestorm, sigh.
Speaking of which, altho what he said seemed insightful, he hardly mentions the bellicosity of many americans, the extreme violence.
As one of the Terminator movies ended, "A storm is coming". Yes, to the storm called america.
My apologies and sympathies go to sane americans for my remarks, but you know it's the truth.

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StarGladiator
Sep 18, 2017

I shall endeavor to read this book even though I have always considered Kurty to be among the Fake News crew and especially a lightweight, not among journalism professionals!
As far as // perpetuating conspiracy theories, self-delusion, \\ the best sources I've seen which explain that are declassified CIA files, NSA files, State Department files, and stolen FBI files.
That's really all one need say on that subject.

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paul1
Nov 04, 2017

"..,the GOP more than any other U.S. institution, helped convince white people of an extraordinary falsehood underlying the others. For almost a generation now, according to a new study by professors at the Harvard Business School and Tufts, the average white American has subscribed to the fantasy that anti-white bias is a more serious problem in the the United States than anti-black bias" page 370

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