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Publisher's Summary

A razor-sharp thinker offers a new understanding of our post-truth world and explains the American instinct to believe in make-believe, from the Pilgrims to P. T. Barnum to Disneyland to zealots of every Donald Trump.
In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen demonstrates that what's happening in our country today - this strange, post-factual, "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 60s, 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 was 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and then more quickly in the last several decades, the American invent-your-own-reality legacy of the Enlightenment superseded its more sober, rational, and empirical parts.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 21st-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must listen to this book.
©2017 Kurt Andersen (P)2017 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

"This is an important book - the indispensable book - for understanding America in the age of Trump. It's an eye-opening history filled with brilliant insights, a saga of how we were always susceptible to fantasy, from the Puritan fanatics to the talk-radio and Internet wackos who mix show business, hucksterism, and conspiracy theories." (Walter Isaacson)
"Kurt Andersen is America's voice of reason. What is he - Canadian? The people who should read this book won't - because it's a book - but reality-based citizens will still get a kick out of this winning romp through centuries of American delusion." (Sarah Vowell)
" Fantasyland presents the very best kind of idea - one that, in retrospect, seems obvious, but that took a seer like Kurt Andersen to piece together. The thinking and the writing are both dazzling; it is at once a history lesson and an oh-so-modern cri de coeur; it's an absolute joy to read and will leave your brain dancing with excitement long after you're done." (Stephen Dubner)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Synthpulse on 11-15-17

Great book, but...

This is a really great book, but the absolute BEST thing about it is the narration by Kurt Anderson, the author. This guy is amazing. He sounds honest, friendly and very likable. He makes it hard to stop listening. Some narrators are very good but they sound like what they are; professionals. Kurt sounds like a very knowledgeable friend or your favorite professor. I intend to buy every other book he narrates. This book has really helped me understand why Americans are so arrogant and why they don't even realize it.

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20 of 21 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David Larson on 09-07-17

Bland Title For An Amazing Book!

How did wealthy urban liberals and their fear of vaccinations help elect Donald Trump?

Why are Republicans more likely than Democrats to believe in UFOs?

What law change in 1987 allowed the rise of Rush Limbaugh (who started broadcasting the very next year).

Why do some liberals follow right-wing pundits like Alex Jones?

How did the rise of conspiracy theories lead to the increase of more radical candidates on both sides?

In short…why are Americans so darn gullible?

Why don’t we bristle more when an American President uses words like “alternative facts” and “fake news?” 20 years ago that would have been grounds for impeachment. What happened??

And what does all of this have to do with the progression of Christianity from a hierarchical structure (think of the Catholic Church with clear leadership ranks from priest up to pope), into a free-for-all where any charismatic fast-talker can start a mega-church preaching obvious contradictions (e.g. Jesus wants you to be rich so send me your money).

Kurt Andersen, the co-founder of Spy Magazine, has written an amazingly thorough and important account of what happened to us as a people and where we are heading. Along the way, you will learn about the shockingly high proportion of Americans who believe insane stuff, and how fast these beliefs are growing, even though we now have more access to the truth than ever before.

This book should be taught in civics class, if only our children were still required to take a civics class. I would say that the removal of civics class is a conspiracy, but then I would be part of the problem. Kurt can explain it much better…just read the book.

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62 of 69 people found this review helpful

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