Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country

Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country

by Steve Almond
Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country

Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country

by Steve Almond


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597092265
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Publication date: 04/01/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 363,047
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Steve Almond is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the New York Times Bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. His short stories have been anthologized widely, in the Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Erotica, and Best American Mysteries series. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He teaches at the Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard, and hosts the New York Times podcast “Dear Sugars” with fellow writer Cheryl Strayed.

Read an Excerpt


This book originally carried a different (and rather more grandiose) subtitle: "Toward a Unified Theory of How It All Came Apart." I ultimately chose a simpler phrase, one that captures something of the bewildment and exasperation so many Americans feel. But I mention that first subtitle to emphasize the nature of my undertaking. I’m not offering a single theory, or even a set of theories, as to how our democracy fell apart. I’m working toward a synthesis of theories. The ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency is certainly the impetus for this investigation. But it should not be mistaken for my subject.

In fact, I’ve been tracking the odd and lurching course of our democracy for most of my adult life. I’ve pursued this interest not as an academic—an historian or a political scientist—but as a reporter and, more recently, a fiction writer. That makes me a storyteller technically, though I feel more often like a woozy and puzzled student of the American story.

I’ve placed my faith in stories because I believe them to be the basic unit of human consciousness. The stories we tell, and the ones we absorb, are what allow us to pluck meaning from the rush of experience. Only through the patient interrogation of these stories can we begin to understand where we are and how we got here.

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