Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Random. Sept. 2017. 480p. index. ISBN 9781400067213. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781588366870. HIST
OrangeReviewStarAndersen (True Believers) interprets American history, beginning with the Puritans, in part as a myth-driven, religiously fundamental mental, antiscientific engine that ultimately paved the way for the presidency of Donald Trump. According to the author, the 18th century's "First Great Delirium" ushered in utopian fantasies, religious and supernatural cults, and spurious medical treatments, which resurfaced with a vengeance with the 1960s counterculture and continues unabated. In the 21st century, the Internet fuels the "fantasy-industrial complex," which has made entertainment the force behind pop culture, the media, and politics. Trump's appeal, claims Andersen, is his skill at invoking American myths of greatness and opportunity, historically limited to mostly wealthy, white males. He asserts that the president has become the leader of the United States of Fantasyland, with his reality TV and Art of the Deal credentials. Andersen's spirited, thought-provoking narrative provides a compelling view of the current polarized state of U.S. politics, although the author holds out some hope that Fantasyland has peaked with the Trump administration.
VERDICT This engaging work will find a wide and appreciative audience among general readers and scholars alike. [See the author Q&A on p. 130.—Ed.]
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