Almond (Against Football) delivers a worthwhile foray into understanding and responding to the Trump era from a liberal perspective. To this end, he examines misconceptions, or “bad stories,” he sees as contributing to the debasement of American civic discourse, such as “economic anguish fueled Trumpism” or “there is no such thing as fair and balanced.” What has “come apart” for Almond is a serious commitment to the work of a liberal democracy. Instead, he sees the right and left relegating politics to the realms of, respectively, horror film (in alarmist Fox News stories) and farce (on the Daily Show). A major touchstone for Almond’s analysis is Neil Postman’s 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, which now seems clairvoyant, he observes, about America’s “descent into triviality” via mass media. Taking storytelling as a basic human need, Almond’s commendable goal is to make room for the invention of better stories that draw on humanity’s finer instincts: generosity over greed, patience or curiosity over blind loyalty or rage. Notwithstanding the author’s own occasional one-sidedness, especially in too-pat psychologizing of Clinton opponents and Trump supporters, these essays unfold some timely insights and avenues into the despair stalking American public life. (Apr.)
This review has been updated to reflect the book's new subtitle.