cover image Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion and Revolution

Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion and Revolution

Ben Fountain. Ecco, $27.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-268884-2

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.)