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The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

by

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America Cover

ISBN13: 9780374534608
ISBN10: 0374534608
Condition: Standard
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Staff Pick

Packer's book offers a new perspective on the American economy from real people, some of whom have adapted to the new landscape and some of whom continue to struggle. Is the American Dream still attainable? Read The Unwinding for the real story.
Recommended by Kim S., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The 2013 National Book Award Winner

A New York Times Bestseller

Selected by New York Times critic Dwight Garner as a Favorite Book of 2013

One of Amazon's Best Books of 2013

A New York Times Notable Book of 2013

A Washington Post Best Political Book of 2013

An NPR Best Book of 2013

A New Republic Best Book of 2013

One of Publishers Weekly's Best Nonfiction Books of 2013

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

A riveting examination of a nation in crisis, from one of the finest political journalists of our generation.

American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while rending the social contract, driving the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In The Unwinding, George Packer, author of The Assassins Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives.

The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internets significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the eras leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents.

The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packers novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.

Review:

"[The Unwinding] hums — with sorrow, with outrage and with compassion....Packer's gifts are Steinbeckian in the best sense of that term....[Packer has] written something close to a nonfiction masterpiece.” Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Review:

“Gripping...deeply affecting...beautifully reported.” David Brooks, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

“Packer's dark rendering of the state of the nation feels pained but true. He offers no false hopes, no Hollywood endings, but he finds power in...the dignity and heart of a people.” The Washington Post

Review:

“[The Unwinding] has many of the qualities of an epic novel...[a] professional work of journalism that also happens to be more intimate and textured — and certainly more ambitious — than most contemporary works of U.S. fiction dare to be....What distinguishes The Unwinding is the fullness of Packers portraits, his willingness to show his subjects human desires and foibles, and to give each of his subjects a fully throated voice.” The Los Angeles Times

Review:

“A monumental work that is both intimate and sweeping....Packer's writing dazzles...[his] reporting excels....The cumulative effect is extraordinary.” The Seattle Times

Review:

“Brilliant. Harrowing. Gorgeously written...The Unwinding is a lyrical requiem for a lost time, for downsized dreams and surrendered hopes. It's beautiful... but also...heartbreaking, a lush work of art that hurts all the more for being about the loss of hope and promise in America.” The Daily Kos

Review:

“This is a work not just of fact, but of wit, irony, and astounding imagination.” The Paris Review

Review:

“A work of prodigious, highly original reporting....[Packer] demonstrates that the future of reporting out in world isn't in eclipse....Packer's arduous venture commands attention.” The New York Review of Books

Review:

“Wide ranging, deeply reported, historically grounded and ideologically restrained....Instead of compelling us to engage with his theory of the past 35 years of the American experience, Packer invites us to explore the experience itself, as lived by our fellow citizens. They're human beings, not evidence for an agenda or fodder for talking points. Understanding that is the first step toward reclaiming the nation we share with them.” Laura Miller, Salon

Review:

“[Packer is] among the best non-fiction writers in America...[he] weaves an unforgettable tapestry....In its sensibility, The Unwinding is closer to a novel than a work of non-fiction. It is all the more powerful for it.” The Financial Times

Review:

“Fascinating...elegant....A richly complex narrative brew.” The Chicago Tribune

Review:

“[An] awe-inspiring X-Ray of the modern American soul.” The Millions

Review:

“A brilliant and innovative book that transcends journalism to become literature.” Bookforum

Review:

“[S]uperbly written and consistently thought-provoking....The Unwinding is long-form journalism at its best.” Dallas News

Review:

“Masterful...thoughtful, thorough, and persuasive...the payoff comes when Packer's various elements combine in powerful and startling ways....What will stay with you...are the book's people, people Packer never turns into ideological mascots, people who struggle to survive, to create, to improve, even as the systems of support erode around them.” The Christian Science Monitor

Review:

“Packer's strength as a storyteller lies in his ability to marshal a diverse range of voices from across the class divide, in a nation deeply divided by social status.” NPR Books.org

Review:

“Exemplary journalism....A foundational document in the literature of the end of America.” Kirkus (starred review)

Review:

“A broad and compelling perspective on a nation in crisis...an illuminating, in-depth, sometimes frightening view of the complexities of decline and the enduring hope of recovery.” Booklist (starred review)

Review:

“Trenchant...[the] brief biographies of seminal figures that shaped the current state of affairs offer the books fiercest prose, such as in Packer's brutal takedown of Robert Rubin, secretary of the Treasury during some key 1990s financial deregulation that amplified the severity of the Great Recession of 2008. Packer has a keen eye for the big story in the small moment, writing about our fraying social fabric with talent that matches his dismay.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Review:

The Unwinding...echoes the symphonic rage of the celebrated television series The Wire...a tremendous work of reporting that pushes past abstractions and recycled debates....Whatever ones views on American decline generally, it is difficult to put the book down without...a conviction that we can do better. And yet if it is a story of despair, it is also a story of resilience. Packers subjects make good and bad decisions, enjoy lucky breaks and misfortune, eke it out, give in, and try harder. The lives they lead are worth describing in detail, not only because they are instructive but also because they are beautiful.” The Washington Monthly

About the Author

George Packer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of The Assassins Gate: America in Iraq, which received several prizes and was named one of the ten best books of 2005 by The New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of two novels, The Half Man and Central Square, and two other works of nonfiction, Blood of the Liberals, which won the 2001 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and The Village of Waiting. His play, Betrayed, ran off-Broadway for five months in 2008 and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play. His most recent book is Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade. He lives in Brooklyn.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Rick Vigorous, January 15, 2015 (view all comments by Rick Vigorous)
George Packer’s collage of American life is a work of nonfiction that reads like a novel, brilliantly describing the changes in our social, financial, and political institutions through the lives of a score of Americans over the last three decades. The stories of a handful of main characters are threaded throughout the book: a single mother in Ohio struggles to make ends meet and give her children a better life, doing what she can to help save her community after the good jobs disappear and the houses in her neighborhood start going vacant; a bright kid from Alabama moves to DC and spends a career watching the city buckle under the weight of organized money; an entrepreneur from North Carolina dreams of getting rich while securing America’s energy independence and bringing jobs back home from overseas. Uniting all of these stories is a looming sense that the American Dream has been compromised, that the rules have been bent toward the interests of the rich and powerful, and that for many people working hard and playing by the rules no longer seems to be enough to have a decent life.

As if turning the telescope around, Packer punctuates these detailed narratives of ordinary folks with snappy profiles of some of America’s most public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Alice Waters. We read about Silicon Valley billionaires, Oprah, and Jay-Z--the Americans who we want to be, who built empires out of nothing, and who seem to take away our excuses for not achieving greatness ourselves. Among these profiles of the rich and famous is a chapter on Sam Walton, and the author has few kind words for describing the man who founded a retail empire and left the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune with "more money than the bottom 42 percent of Americans.” In describing Wal-Mart, Packer makes a big point by touching on the ways that America itself has grown to resemble the retail giant: "It had gotten cheap. Prices were lower, and wages were lower. There were fewer union factory jobs, and more part-time jobs as store greeters."

There are notes of optimism to be found throughout the book, but mostly this is a story about decay and about the widening disconnect between America’s elites and the rest of us. This is what Packer calls the unwinding. “There have been unwindings every generation or two,” he tells us. “Each decline brought renewal, each implosion released energy, out of each unwinding came a new cohesion.” One can only hope that he’s right, and that another renewal for America is just around the corner.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
AchillesX, March 12, 2014 (view all comments by AchillesX)
TAKE NOTE --- I typed the following in my posted comment of November 27, 2013. For whatever reason(s), it apparently was not processed and/or recorded!

My late father, while standing all-day 40-years on, vigorously and masterfully hand-winded copper coils as a machinist.
Charley was the factory's last man to perform such a task manually when he retired in 1971. Rapid innovations in engineering
technology; quality control benchmarks; transformation of corporate ownership-direction-product lines-fiscal accounting;
factory renovations, retooling, re-locations, closings; both management and worker downsizing; benefits & pension restructuring;...
altogether erupted throughout the State of Ohio and across the industrial Midwest, elsewhere during the '70s---inevitably leading
an America (for which immigrant Charley worked tirelessly, lived honestly, and honored its social contract) into ongoing decades
of seething, excruciating 'UNWINDING'.
This is the theme of George Packer's eagle-eyed, sweeping 30+ years' state-of-the-Union narrative.
THE UNWINDING: AN INNER HISTORY OF THE NEW AMERICA. *Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction*
Hardcover - Published May 2013
Paperback - Available March 2014
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374534608
Subtitle:
An Inner History of the New America
Author:
Packer, George
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Subject:
US History - 20th Century
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140304
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Farrar, Straus and Giroux - English 9780374534608 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Packer's book offers a new perspective on the American economy from real people, some of whom have adapted to the new landscape and some of whom continue to struggle. Is the American Dream still attainable? Read The Unwinding for the real story.

"Review" by , "[The Unwinding] hums — with sorrow, with outrage and with compassion....Packer's gifts are Steinbeckian in the best sense of that term....[Packer has] written something close to a nonfiction masterpiece.”
"Review" by , “Gripping...deeply affecting...beautifully reported.”
"Review" by , “Packer's dark rendering of the state of the nation feels pained but true. He offers no false hopes, no Hollywood endings, but he finds power in...the dignity and heart of a people.”
"Review" by , “[The Unwinding] has many of the qualities of an epic novel...[a] professional work of journalism that also happens to be more intimate and textured — and certainly more ambitious — than most contemporary works of U.S. fiction dare to be....What distinguishes The Unwinding is the fullness of Packers portraits, his willingness to show his subjects human desires and foibles, and to give each of his subjects a fully throated voice.”
"Review" by , “A monumental work that is both intimate and sweeping....Packer's writing dazzles...[his] reporting excels....The cumulative effect is extraordinary.”
"Review" by , “Brilliant. Harrowing. Gorgeously written...The Unwinding is a lyrical requiem for a lost time, for downsized dreams and surrendered hopes. It's beautiful... but also...heartbreaking, a lush work of art that hurts all the more for being about the loss of hope and promise in America.”
"Review" by , “This is a work not just of fact, but of wit, irony, and astounding imagination.”
"Review" by , “A work of prodigious, highly original reporting....[Packer] demonstrates that the future of reporting out in world isn't in eclipse....Packer's arduous venture commands attention.”
"Review" by , “Wide ranging, deeply reported, historically grounded and ideologically restrained....Instead of compelling us to engage with his theory of the past 35 years of the American experience, Packer invites us to explore the experience itself, as lived by our fellow citizens. They're human beings, not evidence for an agenda or fodder for talking points. Understanding that is the first step toward reclaiming the nation we share with them.”
"Review" by , “[Packer is] among the best non-fiction writers in America...[he] weaves an unforgettable tapestry....In its sensibility, The Unwinding is closer to a novel than a work of non-fiction. It is all the more powerful for it.”
"Review" by , “Fascinating...elegant....A richly complex narrative brew.”
"Review" by , “[An] awe-inspiring X-Ray of the modern American soul.”
"Review" by , “A brilliant and innovative book that transcends journalism to become literature.”
"Review" by , “[S]uperbly written and consistently thought-provoking....The Unwinding is long-form journalism at its best.”
"Review" by , “Masterful...thoughtful, thorough, and persuasive...the payoff comes when Packer's various elements combine in powerful and startling ways....What will stay with you...are the book's people, people Packer never turns into ideological mascots, people who struggle to survive, to create, to improve, even as the systems of support erode around them.”
"Review" by , “Packer's strength as a storyteller lies in his ability to marshal a diverse range of voices from across the class divide, in a nation deeply divided by social status.”
"Review" by , “Exemplary journalism....A foundational document in the literature of the end of America.”
"Review" by , “A broad and compelling perspective on a nation in crisis...an illuminating, in-depth, sometimes frightening view of the complexities of decline and the enduring hope of recovery.”
"Review" by , “Trenchant...[the] brief biographies of seminal figures that shaped the current state of affairs offer the books fiercest prose, such as in Packer's brutal takedown of Robert Rubin, secretary of the Treasury during some key 1990s financial deregulation that amplified the severity of the Great Recession of 2008. Packer has a keen eye for the big story in the small moment, writing about our fraying social fabric with talent that matches his dismay.”
"Review" by , The Unwinding...echoes the symphonic rage of the celebrated television series The Wire...a tremendous work of reporting that pushes past abstractions and recycled debates....Whatever ones views on American decline generally, it is difficult to put the book down without...a conviction that we can do better. And yet if it is a story of despair, it is also a story of resilience. Packers subjects make good and bad decisions, enjoy lucky breaks and misfortune, eke it out, give in, and try harder. The lives they lead are worth describing in detail, not only because they are instructive but also because they are beautiful.”
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