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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel

There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »

Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?

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Powell's Q&A

Michelle Goldberg

Describe your latest book.
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism is an exploration of the parallel world of the religious right, which I see largely as an authoritarian political movement. As I write in the introduction:

The United States has always been a pious country, given to bursts of spiritual fervor, but Christian nationalism is qualitatively different from earlier religious revivals. Like America's past Great Awakenings, the Christian nationalist movement claims that the Bible is absolutely and literally true. But it goes much further, extrapolating a total political program from that truth, and yoking that program to a political party. It is a conflation of scripture and politics that sees America's triumphs as confirmation of the truth of the Christian religion, and America's struggles as part of a cosmic contest between God and the devil. It claims supernatural sanction for its campaign of national renewal and speaks rapturously about vanquishing the millions of Americans who would stand in its way.

  1. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism
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What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
When I was in graduate school at Berkeley, a friend and I were hired to go barhopping in San Francisco every week for three months. We had to hit three places a night and order at least one Hennessey martini at each. It was part of a stealth marketing campaign to make cognac trendy. It was a bit creepy and manipulative, but given how broke I was, it was also a fantastic way to get to know the city.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
I have no idea why Ellen Willis, the cultural critic who died last year, wasn't more famous. Maybe it's because she was a woman. She had a really exuberant pop sensibility — she was the first rock critic at the New Yorker — but she was also a serious intellectual. She published several books of essays. My favorite is Beginning to See the Light, which came out in 1981.

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
False! Most writers I know are compulsively honest. I could never really go undercover for my book, because I found it almost impossible to espouse beliefs that are not my own.

How do you relax?
Cooking, drinking red wine, doing yoga, and reading big fat epic novels, not all at the same time. When I'm really stressed and exhausted, though, all I can do is lie on the couch with my husband and watch TV shows about murder like Law and Order.

Why do you write?
I can't conceive of making a living any other way. I don't know how good I am at it, but I'm certainly better at writing than I am at anything else, except perhaps lasagna-making. Sad as it may be to admit, all my ambitions in life are bound up with journalism. Besides, I like to be alone a lot of the time, authority makes me indignant, and I'm addicted to traveling — how else could I get by in the world?

Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and not in a kitschy or ironic way. It's hard to believe if you've never watched it, but that show created a profound mythology of teenage girlhood. It took all the emotional turmoil of adolescence and turned it into a kind of emotionally rich feminist fairy tale.

Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
It's insane how happy my cat Suki makes me, even when she decides to sit on my keyboard while I'm trying to work.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Crucial Books for Understanding the American Right:

The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays by Richard Hofstadter
Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein
Right Wing Populism in America by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons
America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism by Anatol Lieven
Roads to Dominion: Right Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States by Sara Diamond spacer

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