Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen

35171984Title: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Author: Kurt Andersen

Pub Date: 2017

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

America is a fascinating country, a state of mind even. It’s such a bizarre mix of amazing scientists and Noble prize winners, reality TV show celebrities turning presidents, entertainment industry pumping its creations in the whole world, disturbing TV shows, crazy gun laws, hundreds of different religions and belief systems. Just a mix of everything and this book takes us on a ride on how it all came to be and live in one glorious place of The United States of America.

I don’t really understand religion, and it’s fascinating to me how it was created and sustained it’s huge role in the life of many people to this day. But what’s even more interesting about religion, is the religion of the States. We in Europe do not have such a vast range of different beliefs, I’ve never heard about thousands of people gathering in one spot and essentially creating a new system of beliefs that is based on one of the books of the old religions, but interpreted in a different way. Europeans are firmly in the grasps of the old religions, and new interpretations of a Bible are not taking over massive congregations over and creating their own religion. But such things are not unusual in America. Many of America’s religions were created by pastors or believers who found a new meaning of a Bible passage, or who even claimed to receive a new world of God and written their own religious scriptures. It’s absolutely fascinating, and Fantasyland gives a broad history lesson on this, the author puts the curious case of religion in the States at the forefront of why Americans are who they are.

Unfortunately, no matter how interesting the subject is, Fantasyland is not the easiest and quickest read. At times author goes into the mode of fact dump and is jumping from one subject to another. It wasn’t a coherent story at times, I felt that the author was trying to squeeze in too much information without putting it all in a well put together a story that will easy reader into the chronology of events and it’s meaning to the story. It won’t be the same experience for everyone, but I felt lost at times and references to characters introduced pages or chapters ago were hard for me to follow. It was too many names to remember, and who knows which one of those people will be relevant to the story again.

Even with my problems to follow the story at the times, I still enjoyed the book. It’s fascinating to read about the American way of life and how it came to be. The book spends a lot of time on religion, but we also have a chance to learn about other American industries like news broadcasting, conspiracies and false stories spread online, entertainment, drugs and alternative medicine. If you’re fascinated by documentaries about lives of Americans who glorify alternative medicine, carry guns everywhere, prepare for the end of the world or any other cases that are in my mind so truly American, you will love this book.

 

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