Fountain's mission with his forceful new essay collection…is to pull readers out of their shortsighted social media stupor to consider the state of social and economic justice in America…You get the feeling Fountain…is marshaling every bit of his intellect in an attempt to smarten everyone else up…[He] brandishes a full array of literary tools, including song, verse, historical anecdotes, piles of research and plenty of satisfying takedowns to keep you on his ride…Many will be tempted to dismiss Beautiful Country as another angry critique of Trump. They would be remiss…There aren't any safe spaces for Democrats here…No one gets out of his book unscathed.★ 07/30/2018
The craziness of the 2016 presidential campaign fed on deep currents in American history, according to these caustic essays. Novelist Fountain (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, recaps election highlights in several chapters of vivid reportage, including colorful profiles of the candidates in Iowa—a Hillary Clinton he sees as both competent and corrupt; an excessively religious, cynical Ted Cruz; a Bernie Sanders who comes across as a hectoring grandpa presiding over a hipster rave of a rally—and a panorama of the bullying politics and batty conspiracy theorizing at the Republican National Convention. Other essays explore the psychic allure of a Kentucky gun show; the history of racialized American policing from slave patrols to the Ferguson riots; the legacy of the New Deal and the decades-long Republican fight to undo it. Fountain’s vivid prose shows the novelist’s knack for revealing character through gesture and physicality—candidate Trump’s overbearing speechifying, he writes, woos audiences with a “confiding stream-of-consciousness slurry like the boss’s arm draped over your shoulder, trusting you above all others”—and offers a shrewd analysis of how Trump’s supporters felt liberated by his assaults on political correctness. Whip-smart and searching in its indictment of cant and falsity, this is perhaps the best portrait yet of an astounding election. Photos. Agent: Heather Schroder, Compass Talent. (Sept.)2018-05-28
Truth is stranger than fiction in these linked reported essays about the 2016 presidential campaign.The book's title comes from a Robinson Jeffers poem, with the final word "Again" suggesting approximately 80-year cycles in which the United States reinvents itself through a cataclysmic event: the Civil War, the Great Depression, which spawned Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, and the shocking election of Donald Trump. Some of the essays appeared in the Guardian, where Fountain (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, 2012, etc.)—the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize—is a columnist. The book opens, naturally, at the beginning of 2016, as the author chronicles his journeys among the presidential candidates as they participated in the Iowa primaries. Hillary Clinton ("with the years has come a kind of dreadnought presence, queen of the fleet, thick armor plating and heavy guns") appears first, followed by Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders. Fountain provides useful context beyond each candidate's campaign with relevant historical information and also by introducing each essay with a monthly "Book of Days" that summarizes global, national, and local news headlines. As the author covers events much like an especially woke journalist, he slides gradually into his Third Reinvention thesis by showing the mutation of traditional presidential campaigning, grounded in a Frankenstein-like scenario during which a monster—especially Trump but also Sanders—turns against its inventor, represented by traditional political parties. Throughout the narrative, as a victory for Trump seems increasingly possible, Fountain savages him in ways many journalists would not. The author portrays Trump as a congenital liar, so far beyond hypocrisy that the author struggles to find a new word to describe him.For most readers, Fountain will offer fresh insights. While some readers may not agree with all of his conclusions, the author's masterful original phrasings make the book worthwhile, urgent, and timely.“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.”“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.”“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.”“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.”“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.”“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.”“[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.”“[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 weaponknowledge.”“There may be no writer alive today who better captures the manic, fevered, paranoid style in 21st-century America than Ben Fountain.”“Fountain vents [his] grievances with eloquence and bite.... steeped in history as well as outrage.“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.”“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.“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.”“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.”04/01/2018
During the Civil War and the Great Depression, argues Fountain, America had to cast aside the established order of things and wholly remake itself. Now we're there again. Best known for his fiction, e.g., the National Book Critics' Circle Award-winning Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Fountain reflects on a tumultuous year in politics, expanding on the well-regarded series of essays on the 2016 U.S. presidential election for the Guardian.