Summary and book reviews of Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain

Beautiful Country Burn Again

Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution

by Ben Fountain

Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain X
Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain
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  • Published:
    Sep 2018, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Renner

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

January
Triumph of the Shrill

One wonders how many tricks Trump poached from J. R. Ewing, another dashing jerk who crashed the scene in the late seventies and turned the common pieties on their pointy heads. No false modesty from these guys! And no piffle about giving back or serving others or the sacred public trust of the corporate sector, no apologies for having boatloads of money and always wanting more. The first episode of Dallas aired in 1978, precisely the time Trump was swinging his lowball deal for the old Commodore Hotel in New York City. This was the deal that put Trump on the map, and by the time the Commodore reopened in 1980 as the splendiferously flashy Grand Hyatt, Trump's TV soul brother was a mass-market American hero and international phenomenon.

Lorimar Productions intended for J. R. to be a secondary character. Bobby, the "good" brother, was supposed to be the star, a character the show's writers seemed to envision as an ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

To explain his hypothesis of change, which he calls the "Third Reinvention," Fountain presents a series of linked essays that cover the span of the 2016 presidential election. Many of the essays were already published in The Guardian, but even with this reuse, the book feels fresh and new. Fountain is used to writing fiction. His novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, won many prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, but with Beautiful Country, Fountain proves that the truth can be much stranger than fiction.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Renner).

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Media Reviews

Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval and Legendary
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.

Publishers Weekly, starred review
Whip-smart and searching in its indictment of cant and falsity, this is perhaps the best portrait yet of an astounding election.

Booklist, starred review
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.

Kirkus
"While some readers may not agree with all of his conclusions, the author's masterful original phrasings make the book worthwhile, urgent, and timely.

Author Blurb David Finkel, author of Thank You For Your Service
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.

Author Blurb Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning
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.

Author Blurb Alma Guillermoprieto, author of Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution
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.

Author Blurb Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
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.

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Beyond the Book

Musings on A Nation of Reinvention

PhoenixIn Beautiful Country Burn Again, author Ben Fountain posits that the United States reinvents itself to survive times of extreme crisis. He believes that these severe times of change happen approximately every 80 years, making the Civil War the first great reinvention, followed by the Great Depression and the New Deal in the 1930s, and landing for now, finally, at our shocking 2016 election. But what exactly constitutes a reinvention? For Fountain, it seems to have two distinct parts – the crisis that holds the nation teetering on the precipice and the response and recovery from it. Like his title suggests, a reinvention is much like a phoenix, burning to the ground only to eventually rise up brand new from its own ashes.

To ...

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