Tyler Anderson's Reviews > Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant
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Mar 19, 2009

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Read in March, 2009

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. Maybe I DID like this book more than I did. Hmmm. First off, it is a collection of essays, not a single stream. They all center on the lives of the people of this man's hometown of Winchester, VA, which he offers as a microcosm of the American white working class experience. That may be debatable, but I can accept his premise in a broad sense.

What feels strong about this book is that it is not simply OpEd dithering and blathering by some liberal guy. These essays are built over a framework of verifiable research, whether into the realities of guns in America, or of trailer home society, or factory work, or health care. That I can genuinely appreciate. This isn't the vapid fluff and catchphrase anti-Republicanism that made me chase Obama pollsters in ironic shoes off my lawn. This guy, in many but not all places through this book, is less on the preaching and more on the numbers. And it's in those chapters where Bageant is at his best. Are mobile homes cheap? Are we all going to be shot by evil gun owners? Does hard work bring "success?"

Occasionally, the author does slip into everything-is-awful soliloquy. Nowhere does he doe so more ponderously than the last chapter, a ho-hum finale to his book where he stumbles about trying to give shape to the idea of a society dominated by spectacle and media, obsessed more with abstraction and branding than personal experience and education. Hey, point taken, but it devolves into a grinding miasma without offering a window to see beyond it; and it feels like an afterthought trying to provide an explanation for why the rest of the topics in the book could be so. A sour ending on an otherwise enjoyable book.

People who are unimpressed with the American 1.5 party system and its war on the poor, but who don't think that the answer is for us all to eat out of the garbage and drum for peace—you know, people who like Kucinich AND own a gun—will get something out of this book.
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