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Fantasyland Audiobook

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

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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 stripe...to 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and then more quickly in the last several decades, the American invent-your-own-reality legacy of the Enlightenment superseded its more sober, rational, and empirical parts.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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.6 (249 )
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  •  
    David Larson 09-07-17
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    24 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anonymous 09-13-17
    09-13-17
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    "An enthralling & highly relevant cultural history"

    Mr. Anderson provides a timely and accurate history of American culture, from European colonization to contemporary Trumpian politics. America has truly gone off the rails, and Anderson argues it beautifully.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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    Shannon Ng 10-20-17
    Shannon Ng 10-20-17
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    "A clearer view? I think so."

    I appreciate the historical perspective​ on why we as Americans often choose fantasy over reality. The chapter on religion and our propensity for forming new denominations to suit our beliefs when they differ from established ones is fascinating. especially when those new groups set fundamentalist or evangelical ground rules and call them truth. the author focuses on how we arrived at today's version of Fantasyland in several topical and cultural areas including finance and real estate, politics, news and fake news and more. Read this for a broader perspective on who we really are and why. You may not agree with all his hypotheses but he will encourage you to try the rational approach despite our desire to believe the unbelievable. I highly recommend this read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted 10-20-17
    Ted 10-20-17
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    "Well-written. Still, a scientistism screed."

    Well written. Mostly right. Still a lot is the usual militant atheist screed against anything that goes against the scientism belief--that is, seeing science as capable of describing all reality and knowledge, as if it were the only true way to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things. So he derides religion as "belief in the untrue." He also derides as groundless conspiracy theories the information that has come out over the last 50 years about the JFK murder and the last 17 years on 9/11. Evidently he just believes the official conspiracy theories. So, like with religion, he shows that he knows little on these topics.
    Arrogance is often dressed up in articulate expression.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Smoke 10-19-17
    Smoke 10-19-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Fascinating History"

    Highly recommend this book. A fascinating look at the history of America. I also loved the author's presentation. He made it interesting, funny and sobering all at the same time

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Clayton R Meredith 10-18-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Conspiracy prone take on conspiratorial thought"

    Andersen's take on the culture of fantasy in America is sure to rub you the wrong way at some point. While much of the book focuses on the decline of gatekeepers and presents a refreshingly complete look at the 'anything goes' aspects of the American ethos, at other times, the critique of everyday indulgences and leisure reads like he's tying together disparate threads as a conspiracy theorist might.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Christian R. Unger 10-18-17
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    "Really interesting, lots of unique perspective"

    I did not expect there to be such a wealth of diverse (yet consistent) scenarios and, the discussion was broader or more encompassing than I expected. Very interesting and we'll put together. I was concerned this might become repetitive but strangely did not.

    Gives a lot of food for thought.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Ian 10-17-17
    Ian 10-17-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Awesome!"

    Great writing, fantastic (ha ha) narration. I recommend this to everyone, especially my fellow Americans.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Amazon Customer 10-15-17 Member Since 2016
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    "An ambitious reasoned rant"


    “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. Even the parts you think you know already are put into an eye-opening context.” —Walter Isaacson 

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Lucas 10-14-17
    David Lucas 10-14-17 Member Since 2009
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    "The Unintellectual History of America"

    This is a must-read (must-listen) for anyone wanting to understand the American Psyche, then and now. It is detailed historical map of American credulity, brilliantly-written, entertaining, funny and sad at the same time. This book will leave you hopeless, until you read the last chapter.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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