I knew I had to read this book when Bill Moyers described it as “the boldest, bravest and most bracing book about politics that I have read this year.” Fountain is an award-winning novelist and a creative writing professor with a law degree and a love of politics and history. This is a smart, stimulating analysis of the 2016 presidential campaign, but also of the current state of social and economic justice. It's far from being just a rehash of the 2016 election or just another Trump-bashing book; in fact, no one escapes unscathed. Fountain gets to the heart of why Trump, why now, where we went wrong, and what might save us. One conclusion he draws is this: “Smart white men acting stupid will be the death of America.” No book has ever satisfied so completely my interest in politics, my elation over a great metaphor (he describes Cruz as a man who “gargles twice a day with a cocktail of high-fructose corn syrup and holy-roller snake oil”) and my love of literature (the book is generously peppered with pertinent literary quotes; the most prophetic belong to James Baldwin). I’ve read many very fine books during 2018, but this one stands alone at the top of my list. It is an important and edifyingly profound read.
In a sweeping work of reportage set over the course of 2016, New York Times bestselling author Ben Fountain recounts a surreal year of politics and an exploration of the third American existential crisis
Twice before in its history, the United States has been faced with a crisis so severe it was forced to reinvent itself in order to survive: first, the struggle over slavery, culminating in the Civil War, and the second, the Great Depression, which led to President Roosevelt’s New Deal and the establishment of America as a social-democratic state. In a sequence of essays that excavate the past while laying bare the political upheaval of 2016, Ben Fountain argues that the United States may be facing a third existential crisis, one that will require a “burning” of the old order as America attempts to remake itself.
Beautiful Country Burn Again narrates a shocking year in American politics, moving from the early days of the Iowa Caucus to the crystalizing moments of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and culminating in the aftershocks of the weeks following election night. Along the way, Fountain probes deeply into history, illuminating the forces and watershed moments of the past that mirror and precipitated the present, from the hollowed-out notion of the American Dream, to Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, to our weaponized new conception of American exceptionalism, to the cult of celebrity that gave rise to Donald Trump.
In an urgent and deeply incisive voice, Ben Fountain has fused history and the present day to paint a startling portrait of the state of our nation. Beautiful Country Burn Again is a searing indictment of how we came to this point, and where we may be headed.
About the Author
Ben Fountain was born in Chapel Hill and grew up in the tobacco country of eastern North Carolina. A former practicing attorney, he is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and the novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Billy Lynn was adapted into a feature film directed by three-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. His series of essays published in The Guardian on the 2016 U.S. presidential election was subsequently nominated by the editors of The Guardian for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife of 32 years, Sharon Fountain.
“There may be no writer alive today who better captures the manic, fevered, paranoid style in 21st-century America than Ben Fountain.” — Rolling Stone
“Brilliantly argued and authoritatively illustrated.... There’s no one I would rather read on Where We Are Now.... If this country can find writers like Ben Fountain to chronicle its most miserable hours, it can’t be all bad. — Los Angeles Review of Books
“What on earth happened in and to the United States in 2016? And why did it happen? In “Beautiful Country Burn Again,” Fountain confronts both these riddles in creative and provocative ways that force a reader to think hard about the sudden disappearance of familiar patterns of politics and government.” — Washington Post
“[Fountain] is not only a sharp writer but an astute observer of the human condition. And, it turns out, he’s got a sharp mind for politics and history, too.... The book is a captivating read — often humorous, infuriating, and depressing all at the same time.” — Texas Observer
“The reality of US politics outdistanced the wildest extravagances of imagination a long time ago, which is only one of a hundred deft, discomfiting points Fountain makes. In today’s superheated political climate, fairness and perspective are hard to come, but Fountain manages to take a relatively measured view.” — Boston Globe
“As a stylist, Fountain combines the talents of Ambrose Bierce, Norman Mailer, and Hunter Thompson.... A penetrating critique of a contemporary American politics thoroughly corrupted by money.... Ben Fountain’s voice—enraged, unsparing, unrelenting, acutely attuned to hypocrisy, and suffused with wit—invests his testimony with an authority that commands respect.” — Commonweal
“Fountain vents [his] grievances with eloquence and bite.... steeped in history as well as outrage. — Dallas News
“Pithy and profound.... Fountain’s mix of salient lessons from the past and essential guideposts for the future is a must-have addition to the “how did we get here” canon of political scrutiny in and of the age of Trump.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“Fountain’s vivid prose shows the novelist’s knack for revealing character through gesture and physicality.... Whip-smart and searching in its indictment of cant and falsity, this is perhaps the best portrait yet of an astounding election.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Fountain’s] words are emotional and powerful. While Donald Trump and those who enable him are primary targets, no one escapes his criticism, including much of the American electorate. Beautiful Country Burn Again has the potential to arm the body politic with their greatest weapon--knowledge.” — Shelf Awareness
“Sometimes it takes a novelist to capture a world gone mad...With clarity of mind and the most observant of eyes, Fountain gives us a memorable and unique portrait of...an American moment which is likely to shape us for far longer than any of us would like to contemplate.” — Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
“A masterpiece of a book, the true story of American possibility...So smart, so funny, so well-researched, so brilliantly argued, so scathing and at times shaming and, most of all, morally honest...I hope every word will find its way into the coarsening minds and hearts of every American.” — David Finkel, author of Thank You For Your Service
“Thank God for Ben Fountain...Here is a quirky truth teller, a creative, who is attempting to steer America on a path that will bring some goodness to the most of us. Beautiful Country Burn Again is...written with a novelist’s skill of heart and with a researcher’s expertise.” — Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning
“The force and beauty of Fountain’s writing, his clear-eyed fury, his commitment to what is great about the American idea, make for exhilarating reading. A book for right now, and for all the fires next time.” — Alma Guillermoprieto, author of Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution
“The author covers events much like an especially woke journalist... For most readers, Fountain will offer fresh insights...The author’s masterful original phrasings make the book worthwhile, urgent, and timely.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Fountain brings a unique and thoughtful assessment to the subject matter. With fluid, captivating writing and hilarious quotes and descriptions, he details each candidate’s foibles.... [Fountain] clearly illustrates how a cultural undercurrent of divisive economic interests... is once again driving a populist surge against the status quo.” — Seattle Times