The New York Times bestselling author and one half of the Dear Sugars podcast duo with Cheryl Strayed reckons with the election of President Donald Trump as a failure of storytelling, in which the American public has come to believe more than a dozen "bad stories" he charts and rebuts in this essay collection.
With the same biting wit that marks Almond’s previous books of social criticism ... he casts equal blame on both the left and the right, bitingly criticizing, for example, liberal comedians such as Jon Stewart and Bill Maher for making light of Trump while basking in their glowing reviews. Almond holds up literature as a guide through America’s age-old moral dilemmas and finds hope for his country in family, forgiveness, and political resistance.
Steve Almond['s]...book is notable not so much for advancing new ideas but for synthesizing almost every major argument about what ails our country—including, among much else, racism, xenophobia and rampant economic inequality—and for offering a response to each. Almond is staunchly progressive, and the finished product, if often one-sided, nevertheless combines 'statistical data, personal anecdote, cultural criticism, literary analysis, and when called for, outright intellectual theft' into a whole that is lively, stimulating and pleasantly discursive ... Almond is an excellent prose stylist, and his book is a welcome change of pace from its mostly wonky competitors, though its reliance on literary models can induce the occasional eye roll ... And while his digressive style is one of the book’s greatest pleasures, it also makes it difficult to draw any single, unified conclusion from these essays—beyond, perhaps, the general belief that we should take participatory democracy more seriously and go about it with a bit more empathy.
This is one of those books I will encourage everyone to read. True, it’s full of depressing explanations for how dysfunctional we have become, how broken our democracy is. However, there is also hope—hope found in acknowledging the stories and telling better, truer ones. Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country is also well-written, with insight from literature and history. Almond is able to deliver a lot of information with clarity and brevity. He sums up the entire e-mail scandal in a paragraph, something I wish Hillary could have done. He is possibly over fond of Herman Melville, but that is a minor flaw. If you want to understand what happened, read this book.