How America Went Haywire : A 500-year History

Book - 2017
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * "The single most important explanation, and the fullest explanation, of how Donald Trump became president of the United States . . . nothing less than the most important book that I have read this year."--Lawrence O'Donnell

How did we get here?

In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen shows that what's happening in our country today--this post-factual, "fake news" moment we're all living through--is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. 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 love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we've never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies--every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. 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.

Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand Donald Trump and the 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.


"This is a blockbuster of a book. Take a deep breath and dive in." --Tom Brokaw

"[An] absorbing, must-read polemic . . . a provocative new study of America's cultural history." -- Newsday

"Compelling and totally unnerving." -- The Village Voice

"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

"This is an important book--the indispensable book--for understanding America in the age of Trump." --Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2017.
ISBN: 9781400067213
Branch Call Number: 973 ANDERSE
Characteristics: xiii, 462 pages ; 25 cm


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Mar 16, 2018

Excellent dissection of the long-term trend of pathological thinking that has existed in the United States.

Mar 07, 2018

I love how Andersen namechecks his previous, more interesting book 'Haywire' in the subhead for the title. This is a brick without footnotes, smells like contract fulfillment, and perfectly useful for throwing at those nasty kids on my lawn. How the co-founder of 'Spy' Magazine could become such an old crank is a lesson for the youth of today. I am unclear on when and how he became an authority on US cultural history, but here it is. Is this where I mention I LIKE Kurt Andersen? I might not anymore. Zzzzzzzz.

Feb 20, 2018

I thought it was a fair and balanced account of the delusions and illusions of America from the beginning of European Invasion to the current lunatic asylum. He reveals the causes of illusions and lies from both sides. That being said, he has more to write about on the Right wing side of the looney bin than the left, just because there's a bigger volume of garbage. No real solutions offered for the middle of the road or sane way of going forward, and he is sometimes repetitive, but there are a lot of eye-opening revelations for the average person in this book. It was fun to go through and figure out what lies you had been a victim of, and which ones you didn't know were lies and who started them.

Jan 22, 2018

Interesting concept. Alas, it is a complete and total failure. I would give it zero stars if I could. There are so many falsehoods in this book that I stopped keeping count by Chapter 9. I just skimmed the rest, because I won't waste precious time on revisionist history. I have to wonder how this even got published. There are no sources, no notes, and nothing to back up his claims. Those pesky things called FACTS get in the way of this book being anything but pure satire. I recommend skipping this book entirely.

Jan 21, 2018

I see a lot of negative reviews and I can understand why.

He gores everybody's ox. He does get preachy! He repeats himself. It's not an easy read.

I don't always agree with him; but, he's telling American History from a useful point of view.

He makes a strong case for the magical thinking that pervades our society. It is worth the self-reflection.

I read it while Bitcoin was grabbing the headlines. Perfect case in point.

I couldn't even get through the first chapter. This book is self perpetuated. He is bagging on other people's faith and opinion by thinking his are the right opinions. Judgmental and predictable. I already knew he was just going to bash on everything he could think of openly. P.S. In the first two pages he has the gall to say that Autism is not caused by vaccines. That we fantasize that GMO's are unhealthy. Jesus is a fantasy. All of these are proven things and he is saying we all make this up. My favorite 2 page entry is that we as Americans fantasize that the government is out to get us. Really? Please.

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.

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.

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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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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