The Seattle Review of Books, Seattle Weekly, and Third Place Books Seward Park continue our book club exploring who we are as Americans, where we're going, and how we might fix our greatest problems. Reading Through It meets on the first Wednesday of every month. Drink and food specials are available from Raconteur during book clubs, so grab a glass and join us for a lively literary discussion. Every month our selected titles are discounted 20% through the date of the book club. All are welcome, no purchase required.
Our September selection is Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen.
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.