Like a lot of Americans, Steve Almond spent the weeks after the 2016 election lying awake, in a state of dread and bewilderment. The problem wasn’t just the election, but the fact that nobody could explain, in any sort of coherent way, why America had elected a cruel, corrupt, and incompetent man to the presidency. Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country is Almond’s effort to make sense of our historical moment, to connect certain dots that go unconnected amid the deluge of hot takes and think pieces. Almond looks to literary voices—from Melville to Orwell, from Bradbury to Baldwin—to help explain the roots of our moral erosion as a people. The book argues that Trumpism is a bad outcome arising directly from the bad stories we tell ourselves. To understand how we got here, we have to confront our cultural delusions: our obsession with entertainment, sports, and political parody; the degeneration of our free press into a for-profit industry; our enduring pathologies of race, class, immigration, and tribalism. Bad Stories is a lamentation aimed at providing clarity. It’s the book you can pass along to an anguished fellow traveler with the promise, This will help you understand what the hell happened to our country.
“It’s a rare writer who has the power to make one aware in every paragraph of the moral necessity of literature, but in Bad Stories, Steve Almond has done just that. With fierce intelligence, moving candor, and dazzling insight, Almond draws on everything from The Grapes of Wrath to the voting practices of his babysitter to dismantle the false narratives about American democracy that got us into the political pickle were in. I was enlightened and spellbound by Bad Stories, outraged and consoled. This is a profound and essential book for all time, but especially for now.”—Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
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