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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  4,534 ratings  ·  823 reviews
You're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts

If you want to understand Trump's America, how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you have to go back to the very beginning and take a dizzying road trip across five centuries of crackpot delusion and make-believe from Salem to Scientology.

From the Pilgrim Fathers onward, America
Paperback, 480 pages
Published October 12th 2017 by Ebury Press (first published September 5th 2017)
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Chris Plenty. The fantasy on the part of white Europeans that viewed Native Americans as ungodly savages, if not “Satan’s soldiers,” started a…morePlenty. The fantasy on the part of white Europeans that viewed Native Americans as ungodly savages, if not “Satan’s soldiers,” started a three-centuries-long campaign of genocide against them. Similar religion-based fantasies were used to justify the enslavement and brutal treatment of millions of Africans. The level of the atrocities committed against non-whites in this country could have only been motivated by beliefs just as twisted or "extreme" as those motivating more familiar contemporary examples.(less)
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Diane S ☔
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems like a great many of American citizens are living in a Fantasyland, a land where we can fool ourselves that those like minded people, people who share our beliefs, are n fact correct, truth telling. Seriously, how did we manage to get here, to a world and with a leader, who has taken his fantasies to a new level? The author shows us how this refusal to see other view points, often taking this to extreme levels, has always existed.

He takes us back 500 years to the Puritans, a group of Ub
David Rush
Whooo! That was 442 pages of one angry guy venting.

The first half has some pretty cool history anecdotes and when he makes value judgments I almost always agree with him at least in the beginning. But the whole thing is like a really long rambling talk with thousands of historical and cultural references. Kind of like if Dennis Miller was funny or smart or not a conservative stooge, you know if he was somebody completely different..then he would be like this guy if he wrote a book. (Well that w
Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*
I was born in the mid sixties, and I don’t recall anyone being overly religious. I don’t remember any of my classmates talking about Jesus, unless it was in reference to baby Jesus and we were doing a school Christmas play.

Our founding fathers were almost entirely atheist, hence the separation of church and state that they made damn sure to put in the constitution. They experienced religion mixed with government first hand and knew it was a craptastic idea.

Recently, Jeffery Beauregard Sessions,
Peter Mcloughlin
This book is a witty and diverting romp through the horror of our current delusional culture and broken system. It is fun and apocalyptic at the same time. The author is funny and hits you with zingers and trenchant observations about the collapse of our culture, government, economic system and prospects for a sustainable future as we fall into a culture of delusion where reality is just your opinion man. He covers in a funny way how entertainment, conspiracy theories, religious fanaticism, magi ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I've tried to purposely read a book more slowly than I otherwise would because I just did not want it to end. This book was so riveting and interesting that I made myself savor it over a week instead of devouring it all at once, which is what I usually do. Yet I recommend it with a lot of trepidation because he demolishes every faith and every belief. Nothing is sacred--not even the word itself, which he believes is a troubling concept. There is a lot to disagree with ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting, and, I think, valuable book to have come out at this time and place. Surveys he cites show that one fifth of Americans think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job by American government agents, and four fifths believe that the Bible is factual history right down to the creation story. Only a third of us believe that the current climate changes are human caused. Various religious sects believe all the others are heretic. The author states that between the 60s anything go ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
I am in the minority regarding this book. I found it tedious, shallow and worst of all familiar. The author is out of his depth in his overall story that he’s trying to tell when he connects all of his facts about the past. He has a lot of facts that he presents about how Americans have (almost) always been willing to suspend disbelief and fail to use sufficient reason proportional to the credulity of the belief under consideration.

Evolution is a fact. The theory of evolution by natural selecti
Remember when 'viral' was a bad thing, referring only to the spread of disease? Same goes for what you read and watch and believe.

Andersen traces 500 years of cultural history that lead us to this moment where logic and rational thought are downplayed, where opinion equals fact, and where many choose to live in a complete "fantasyland". It's a trenchant analysis, and a very convincing one too.

Andersen notes that from the very beginnings - the Protestant Reformation, the European migration to
Jun 16, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I first became suspicious when I saw this book does not contain a bibliography of any kind.

If you're writing a book about our current era of "fake news" and "alternative facts," and how we became a society who tolerated that kind of thinking, don't you think you should cite some sources to back up your own claims? Otherwise, the reader has to take it on faith that what you're saying is true, that you're quoting things accurately, and that there's actually facts behind your claims.

The book starts
Mikey B.
I have been to the U.S. several times in my life and have to admit that I haven’t experienced it like this book, although I did see gun stores and many churches in the Southwest. But traveling is selective; I love visiting museums and National Parks where one does not encounter the ideas and people in Kurt Andersen’s “Fantasyland”.

Kurt Andersen, like many politicians and pundits, stipulates that the U.S. indeed is an “exceptional country”. But by “exceptional” he really means “idiotic”.

The theme
Leo Walsh
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun romp through "post-truth" America, where people make millions off of Americans' gullibility. Where Karl Rove, a White House official, can quip that "what we call the 'reality-based community,' where people believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." have it wrong. Because, according to Rove, "That's not the way the world really works anymore."

In this America, people believe in easily-debunked fact-and-logic-free nonsense — like UFO's, the Illuminati cr
Kressel Housman
I've been a fan of Kurt Andersen's radio show "Studio 360" for years, especially his "American Icons" series, so when I heard him promoting this book, I ordered it from my library immediately. What I did not realize, though, was that it was the perfect follow-up to the book I'd just finished because it picks up where that one was set: in the Puritan colonies. Roger Williams gets only two mentions in this book, but it's all about the down side of his legacy of "soul liberty." If everyone is allow ...more
Todd N
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, this has got to be the longest Spy Magazine article I have ever read. It’s too bad the book jacket doesn’t have a Photoshopped picture of Hillary and Trump on it. Come to think of it, there must be several good ones in the Spy archives left over from the 80s and 90s.

The “Fantasyland” of the title is America, of course — the place where reality has a well-known liberal bias. The place where Republicans think it is ridiculous Russia could have interfered in the latest election, while at the
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m a big fan of NBA basketball. Earlier this year a seemingly thoughtful star athlete on the Cleveland Cavaliers named Kyrie Irving (who briefly attended the prestigious Duke University), made waves at a press conference after a game. Somehow the conversation had turned to science and Irving, to the astonishment of those in attendance claimed because he had traveled all around the world multiple times he could say that the world is flat, not round.
This triggered a string of tweets by other N
If you're one of those people who believes that the current insanity we're living through in America is a new infection, Andersen makes a convincing case that it's a virus America's had for quite some time. In fact, he asserts that it's part of our DNA and the outbreaks have cropped up in different forms over time since our "discovery" back in the 15th century. Europe sent over their best and the world's never been the same since.

His case is particularly solid when describing the post-war Boomer
Robert Gustavo
I don’t know what I expected, given the title, but the author is basically an asshole speaking to the converted.

The premise is fairly straightforward — Protestantism makes each person the ultimate authority on The Truth, and that founding America on Protestantism has led to an America where facts and figures are a matter of opinion. And, there is probably a decent argument to be made along those lines.

But, Kurt Andersen doesn’t make that argument well, because he’s more interested in scoring po
Dennis Diehl
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Unfortunately, those with the most to gain from Fantasyland are those most likely to never read it.
Anita Pomerantz
If ever there was a book I should have DNF'd early on, this was it. Anderson's hypothesis, if you will, is that the United States was birthed in fantasy (the gold rush) and over time, our populace has become so enamored with fantasy that we ended up with Donald Trump as our president.

And his "proof" is anecdote after anecdote (described in a historical context) about the uniquely (ok, sure) American love of fantasy. Well, yeah, if you conflate every form of entertainment and pleasure seeking wit
65th book for 2017.

Andersen's book, by taking an almost encyclopedic view of all that has been crazy in America since it's foundation, offers a very useful frame to understand contemporary events in the United States.

Although it could be described a breezy romp through 500 years of delusion, it's breadth is very useful in understanding how comprehensive the rot is, and its lightness of touch offers the necessary sugar-coating to swallow the bitter red pill he offers.

The book is refreshingly ha
Mal Warwick
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
You will be amazed. In Kurt Andersen's shocking 500-year survey of US history, Fantasyland, you'll learn just how truly exceptional America is—and not in a good way.

Who is responsible for "fake news?"

If you think only Donald Trump, Fox News, anonymous online pundits, and Russian hackers have a monopoly on "fake news," guess again. Andersen relates countless incidents of purportedly true accounts of satanic cults, multiple personality disorder, recovered memory, vaccines causing autism, and other
Heidi Ward
(Trigger warning for fundamentalists, cosplayers, climate change deniers, Reiki practitioners, anti-vaxxers, humorless socialists, Scientologists, and Trump true believers.)

This book couldn't have hit shelves at a more perfect, pertinent time. Andersen traces the lineage of American super-credulity all the way back to its founding folly: "America" as we know it was seeded with the hopes dreams of an extreme religious sect, with a fervent belief in not just God, but their right to worship their o
Andy Klein
This work would have made a decent article in the New Yorker. But expanded into a long book, we are left with the author shoehorning every conceivable--and many inconceivable and some patently ludicrous--examples of fantasies to fill out a book and try to make his point. There are explanations about how we arrived at Donald Trump and why so many people were taken in by him, but Anderson doesn't have the intellectual firepower to unearth and explain them. A book will be written that explains how ...more
My impression of Fantasyland ended up being a lot like my impression of Hillbilly Elegy.  Overall, I liked it. I even enjoyed it, but it was about 80% solid research/fact and 20% political rhetoric.  That's a bit of a turn off for me, even when I agree with him (and I do).  Andersen's basic premise is that from the very beginning America is built upon a foundation of self delusion and a profound lack of awareness and perspective regarding history. From the Pilgrims to the Populists and Progressi ...more
Michael Perkins
This is a long, very detailed book. If you don't have time to read it all, this excerpt is pretty good....
Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen

“Fantasyland” is a provocative book that describes how being being free to believe anything in America has metastasized out of control. Bestselling author, contributor to Vanity Fair and The New York Times, and radio show host Kurt Andersen provides compelling arguments from many angles that America in essence has mutated into Fantasyland and has led to the presidency of Donald J. Trump. This stimulating book includes 46 c
Todd Martin
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture-politics
Paranormal Beliefs

We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking.
- Mark Twain

You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving … our press secretary gave alternative facts.
- Kellyanne Conway

In his 1963 book Anti-intellectualism in American Life Richard Hofstadter noted that, unique among the developed world, U.S. citizens were particularly impervious to factual information. A half century later, despite the prevalence of technology that places a world of information at our fingertips, conditions hav
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I think Kurt Andersen has important things to say about current events in the US, and the way our past has led to this moment. His thesis--that our current alternative-facts world is an understandable outcome for a country founded on the idea of escape and the possibility of illimitable riches and freedom--suggests both a way of understanding the modern era and a hope of a more reasoned, and reasonable, future.

On the other hand, any nonfict
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Holy smokes there's a lot going on here. That was exhausting. My knee jerk reaction to this is that it's incredibly broad in scope, but not very deep. I repeatedly found myself wishing Andersen would just stick with a topic for more than what seemed to be the average of 4 pages before jumping on to the next. Every time I got to a section that started to pull me in, he moved on. In that way I can totally understand arguments that the anecdotes and stories are cherry picked; it does feel like a ma ...more
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked the message of this book (we need to educate people to ensure that they don't buy into conspiracy theories and other nonsense), but the author's message lacks teeth because it is not supported by verifiable facts that are cited using footnotes or endnotes. Andersen is also very judgmental of how others enjoy spending their free time. He calls out LARPing, fantasy books, television, and movies, cosplay, trips to the Disney Parks, superheroes, and other, to my thinking, hobbies that people ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Basically unreadable even though I agree with the sentiment. This reads like a high school essay. The reader is left to question every fact because they are each delivered with a distasteful hyperbole. I really wonder about the people who are giving this book rave reviews... they must be so apoplectic about the current political environment that they are willing to like anything that supports their viewpoint.
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Play Book Tag: Fantasyland - Kurt Anderson 4/5 3 23 Jan 07, 2018 08:59AM  

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Kurt Andersen is the author of the novels Turn of the Century, Heyday, and True Believers, and and, with Alec Baldwin of You Can't Spell America Without Me. His non-fiction books include Fantasyland, Reset and The Real Thing.

He is also host of the Peabody Award-winning weekly public radio program Studio 360,.

Previously, Kurt was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of the satirical magazine Spy, edito
“mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that steep and simmer for a few centuries; run it through the anything-goes 1960s and the Internet age; the result is the America we inhabit today, where reality and fantasy are weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.” 11 likes
“The disagreements dividing Protestants from Catholics were about the internal consistency of the magical rules within their common fantasy scheme.” 4 likes
More quotes…