cover image Sh*tshow! The Country’s Collapsing... and the Ratings Are Great

Sh*tshow! The Country’s Collapsing... and the Ratings Are Great

Charlie LeDuff. Penguin Press, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-525-52202-7

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist LeDuff (Detroit: An American Autopsy) delivers a crackling critique of American culture using vignettes from his years traveling across the country and talking to everyday Americans for a Fox news segment called “The Americans.” Instead of covering fluff like pie-eating contests, LeDuff and his crew dug into stories about the Flint water crisis, the desperation of those who followed the siren song of the North Dakota oil fields only to find few jobs and low wages, and the rusting, corrupt husk of Detroit. LeDuff intersperses harrowing, white-knuckle moments, such as the time he forged a press pass to interview cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, who was at the time awaiting trial for his 2014 standoff with federal agents, with flashes of sweet irony, such as when LeDuff witnesses black staffers at a gas station deny a member of the Ku Klux Klan use of the restroom. LeDuff’s seething disgust for inequality, corruption, and discrimination is apparent throughout, and it’s made even more potent by LeDuff’s stylized reporting (“Down the road from the collapsing trailer-court cracker box was another brownfield, another dead factory, where dead-end children with blood-red teeth rummaged through filth”). This timely portrait of America is a superb example of contemporary gonzo journalism. [em](May) [/em]