From the acclaimed author of Listen, Liberal and What’s the Matter with Kansas, a scathing collection of his incisive commentary on our cruel times—perfect for this political moment
What does a middle-class democracy look like when it comes apart? When, after forty years of economic triumph, America’s winners persuade themselves that they owe nothing to the rest of the country?
With his sharp eye for detail, Thomas Frank takes us on a wide-ranging tour through present-day America, showing us a society in the late stages of disintegration and describing the worlds of both the winners and the losers—the sprawling mansion districts as well as the lives of fast-food workers.
Rendezvous with Oblivion is a collection of interlocking essays examining how inequality has manifested itself in our cities, in our jobs, in the way we travel—and of course in our politics, where in 2016, millions of anxious ordinary people rallied to the presidential campaign of a billionaire who meant them no good.
These accounts of folly and exploitation are here brought together in a single volume unified by Frank’s distinctive voice, sardonic wit, and anti-orthodox perspective. They capture a society where every status signifier is hollow, where the allure of mobility is just another con game, and where rebellion too often yields nothing.
For those who despair of the future of our country and of reason itself, Rendezvous with Oblivion is a booster shot of energy, reality, and moral outrage.
A decade of fraud, exploitation, and hypocrisy gets mercilessly dissected in these caustic essays. Journalist and historian Frank (Listen, Liberal) gathers pieces published in Harper's, the Guardian, and elsewhere since 2011, surveying the cultural camouflage that disguises the predatory workings of capitalism. He attacks many juicy targets, including the callous interpersonal psychology of rich people; the faux-folksiness of fast-food restaurants that pay starvation wages; journalism's plunge, led by conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart, into fake news and mindless caricature; the defunding of the humanities at universities and academics' defense of those fields as incubators of business acumen; reactions to Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln that lionized its depiction of political corruption as bipartisan "compromise" to which real-life politicians should aspire; and the George W. Bush Presidential Library's efforts to gloss over war, Hurricane Katrina, and economic collapse with an exhibit on "Laura and the twins and all the fun they had." In several trenchant pieces probing Donald Trump's rise, Frank avoids simplistic claims of voter bigotry and instead emphasizes issues of trade, economic decline, and the Democrats' abandonment of the working class for a politics of centrist neoliberalism. Frank's combination of insightful analysis, moral passion, and keen satirical wit make these essays both entertaining and an important commentary on the times.