Beautiful Country Burn Again is a whirling journey centered on a knotty, academic equation that Fountain believes is both the cause of America’s tensions and the impetus for constant reinvention ... [Fountain] brandishes a full array of literary tools, including song, verse, historical anecdotes, piles of research and plenty of satisfying takedowns to keep you on his ride ... Many will be tempted to dismiss Beautiful Country as another angry critique of Trump. They would be remiss ... No one gets out of his book unscathed ... Those who savor such viciousness will be delighted. His brutal observations could easily be the main feature of his work, yet Fountain has more important things to say and more ingenious ways to say them.
Fountain brings a unique and thoughtful assessment to the subject matter. With fluid, captivating writing and hilarious quotes and descriptions, he details each candidate’s foibles, blithely ticking off each month of the campaign ... Fountain begins each chapter with a Book of Days section, a collection of political and cultural notes on events and statements that captured the zeitgeist of that month. At first I thought it was just too eclectic, but as the months rolled on, I sensed an underlying message. That message holds the many moving parts of 2016’s politics together ... It’s not a new message; many other writers have offered similar versions. But not only is Fountain more entertaining, he more clearly illustrates how a cultural undercurrent of divisive economic interests, which has caused this nation to go up in flames in the past, is once again driving a populist surge against the status quo.
A meandering, shaggy monster of a book, it’s too long (skip the interchapter month-by-month summaries of the news events of 2016), and its first half—brilliant reporting from the campaign trail—feels only loosely joined to the second, a pained cry from the heart about the many decades of history that have led to the pickle we’re in. But in different ways both halves are dazzling. The novelist’s gifts that so inspired Billy Lynn are on full display ... What are such bait-and-switch con men [like Trump] offering? Above all, messages, once overt, then coded, today starkly overt again, about race. Fountain has a lot to say about this ... Fountain...gives the most extensive and deeply felt account of how politicians have so long blown on the coals of that fury ... One of the strengths of Beautiful Country Burn Again is that it spares nothing in showing how the Democrats, too, making use of hints and code words, have danced with that devil [of racism] ... The most glowing pages in Beautiful Country Burn Again are about what FDR tried to do with the New Deal ... He gives a particularly searing portrait of life on the vast majority of American farms in the early 1930s ... imagine if a Trump-like figure had been president during the crisis of the Depression.