cover image Rendezvous with Oblivion: Essays

Rendezvous with Oblivion: Essays

Thomas Frank. Metropolitan, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-2502-9366-4

A decade of fraud, exploitation, and hypocrisy gets mercilessly dissected in these caustic essays. Journalist and historian Frank (Listen, Liberal) gathers pieces published in Harper’s, the Guardian, and elsewhere since 2011, surveying the cultural camouflage that disguises the predatory workings of capitalism. He attacks many juicy targets, including the callous interpersonal psychology of rich people; the faux-folksiness of fast-food restaurants that pay starvation wages; journalism’s plunge, led by conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart, into fake news and mindless caricature; the defunding of the humanities at universities and academics’ defense of those fields as incubators of business acumen; reactions to Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln that lionized its depiction of political corruption as bipartisan “compromise” to which real-life politicians should aspire; and the George W. Bush Presidential Library’s efforts to gloss over war, Hurricane Katrina, and economic collapse with an exhibit on “Laura and the twins and all the fun they had.” In several trenchant pieces probing Donald Trump’s rise, Frank avoids simplistic claims of voter bigotry and instead emphasizes issues of trade, economic decline, and the Democrats’ abandonment of the working class for a politics of centrist neoliberalism. Frank’s combination of insightful analysis, moral passion, and keen satirical wit make these essays both entertaining and an important commentary on the times. (June)