Friday, November 7, 2014

The Unwinding

I just finished this excellent book by George Packer.  He portrays the decline of the American nation highlighting corruption on all sides as the economy, government, and social welfare structures crumble around us.  He portrays how much of the damage was really done in the 1970s with the destruction of so many manufacturing jobs in the heartland.  Like so many global changes, they're often most visible from a distance.  He brings the story forward through 2012 highlighting the recession.  He demonstrates how often those who do great destruction through fraud and manipulation especially in financial matters escape without penalty while the results cascade throughout the country.

I think he waits (as we all do) for those who oversaw the fraud of the housing bubble to be held accountable for their crimes.  We wait; he realizes it will never happen.

He shows all of this through rich narrative.  Not exposition but through stories of authentic people.  How individuals, some with wealth and privilege, some without.  Some with strong agency, some at the mercy of conditions around them.  That's what grabs you about this book, you recognize the drama of those around you.

He mentions his debt to Dos Passos.  And, back in the mists of time, I remember reading the USA trilogy in high school and I see how he has used a similar structure.

I can understand why this book read the National Book Award for nonfiction.

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