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Fantasyland : how America went haywire : a 500-year history

Author: Kurt Andersen
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2017]
Edition/Format:   Print book : English : First editionView all editions and formats
Summary:
Explains how the influences of dreamers, zealots, hucksters, and superstitious groups shaped America's tendency toward a rich fantasy life, citing the roles of individuals from P.T. Barnum to Donald Trump in perpetuating conspiracy theories, self-delusion, and magical thinking.
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Genre/Form: History
Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Kurt Andersen
ISBN: 9781400067213 1400067219 9781785038655 1785038656
OCLC Number: 1001364074
Notes: Includes index.
Description: xiii, 462 pages ; 25 cm
Contents: Now entering fantasyland --
Part I. The conjuring of America: 1517-1789 : I believe, therefore I am right: the Protestants ; All that glitters: the gold-seekers ; Building our own private heaven on Earth: the Puritans ; The God-given freedom to believe in God ; Imaginary friends and enemies: the early satanic panics ; The first me century: religion gets American ; Meanwhile, in the 18th century reality-based community --
Part II. United States of amazing: the 1800s : The first great delirium ; The all-American fan fiction of Joseph Smith, prophet ; Quack nation: magical but modern ; Fantastic business: the Gold Rush inflection point ; In search of monsters to destroy: the conspiracy-theory habit ; The war between states of mind ; Ten million little houses on the prairie ; Fantasy industrialized --
Part III. A long arc bending toward reason: 1900-1960 : Progress and backlash ; The biggest backlash: brand new old-time religion ; The business of America is show business ; Big rock candy mountains: utopia in the suburbs and the sun ; The 1950s seemed so normal --
Part IV. Big bang: the 1960s and '70s : Big bang: the hippies ; Big bang: the intellectuals -; Big bang: the Christians ; Big bang: politics and government and conspiracies ; Big bang: living in a land of entertainment --
Part V. Fantasyland scales: from the 1980s through the turn of the century : Making make-believe more realistic and real life more make-believe ; Forever young: kids "r" us syndrome ; The Reagan era and the start of the digital age ; American religion from the turn of the millennium ; Our wilder Christianities: belief and practice ; America versus the godless civilized world: why are we so exceptional? ; Magical but not necessarily Christian, spiritual but not religious ; Blue-chip witch doctors: the reenchantment of medicine ; How the mainstream enabled fantasyland: squishies, cynics and believers ; Anything goes-unless it picks my pocket or breaks my leg --
Part VI. The problem with fantasyland: from the 1980s to the present and beyond : The inmates running the asylum decide monsters are everywhere ; Reality is a conspiracy: the x-filing of America ; Mad as hell, the new voice of the people ; When the GOP went off the rails ; Liberals denying science ; Gun crazy ; Final fantasy-industrial complex ; Our inner children? They're going to Disney World! ; The economic dreamtime ; As fantasyland goes, so goes the nation.
Responsibility: Kurt Andersen.

Abstract:

Explains how the influences of dreamers, zealots, hucksters, and superstitious groups shaped America's tendency toward a rich fantasy life, citing the roles of individuals from P.T. Barnum to Donald Trump in perpetuating conspiracy theories, self-delusion, and magical thinking.

"In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, one of our sharpest observers, Kurt Andersen, demonstrates that what's happening in our country today--this strange, post-truth, 'fake news' moment we're all living through--is not something entirely new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character and path. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by impresarios and their audiences, by hucksters and their suckers. Believe-whatever-you-want fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA. Over the course of five centuries--from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P.T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials--our peculiar love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we've never fully acknowledged. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies--every citizen free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. Little by little, and then more quickly in the last several decades, the American invent-your-own-reality legacy of the Enlightenment superseded its more sober, rational, and empirical parts. We gave ourselves over to all manner of crackpot ideas and make-believe lifestyles designed to console or thrill or terrify us. In Fantasyland, Andersen brilliantly connects the dots that define this condition, portrays its scale and scope, and offers a fresh, bracing explanation of how our American journey has deposited us here. Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand the politics and culture of twenty-first-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must read this book."--Jacket.

America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by impresarios and their audiences, by hucksters and their suckers. Over the course of five centuries-- from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials-- our peculiar love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we've never fully acknowledged. Andersen explores how every citizen free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. We gave ourselves over to all manner of crackpot ideas and make-believe lifestyles designed to console or thrill or terrify us.

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