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Reviews for Wildland

by Evan Osnos

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Inequalities of wealth, class, and culture are tearing the country apart, according to this incisive panorama of America’s discontents. New Yorker writer Osnos (Joe Biden) conducts a loose survey of socio-politics from 9/11 to the January 6 Capitol riot, grounded in journalistic portraits of three places where he’s lived: Greenwich, Conn., where corrupt Wall Street plutocrats live on the profits from hollowing out the heartland’s economy; Clarksburg, W.Va., in an Appalachia floundering in opioid abuse and Trumpian white identity politics; and Chicago, where the South and West sides are awash in poverty and gang violence, a world away from that city’s glittering downtown. These locales represent, Osnos contends, a country fragmented by mutual incomprehension, conspiracy theories, and a “combat mindset,” where people have “lost their vision for the common good.” Osnos vividly sketches hedge-fund managers, ex-cons, Barack Obama, and white nationalist Richard Spencer, among others, and encapsulates worldviews in elegant, pithy prose. (“You could hone every edge of your family’s life—from your life expectancy to your tax avoidance to your child’s performance on the SATs,” he writes of the Greenwich gentry.) The result is an engrossing and revealing look at how deeply connected yet far apart Americans are. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM Partners. (Sept.)


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New Yorker writer Osnos (Age of Ambition) uses the metaphor of "wildland" (a firefighting term for tinder-ready territory) to describe the buildup of economic, political, and social resentments that ignited three disparate communities where he has lived—Greenwich, CT; Clarksburg, WV; and Chicago—between 9/11/01 and the Capitol Insurrection of 1/6/21. In a personal, somewhat autobiographical account intended for concerned Americans, Osnos considers the dissimilitude among residents, which he memorably presents in vignettes illustrating differences in credulousness (of the media and politicians); feelings of safety; and expectations of intergenerational mobility and the American Dream. The author dissects the widening socioeconomic chasms between Greenwich (with its several hedge funds and financial services firms), the economically declining Clarksburg (which is navigating the opioid epidemic), and Chicago (whose neighborhoods are alternately experiencing blight or gentrification). Osnos relies on extensive research in social sciences and history, archival records, local newspaper articles, and numerous interviews. VERDICT This cogently written book is a useful review of intertwined events in the early 21st-century United States.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The National Book Awardwinning journalist examines the ideological gaps that have widened between 9/11 and the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol.After years of reporting from China, the longtime New Yorker staffer returned to find that America had lost its gift for the rational approach, reason, the meeting of minds in honorable agreement after open argument that John Gunther described in his 1947 bestseller, Inside U.S.A. If American history is a story of constant rebalancingbetween greed and generosity, industry and nature, identity and assimilationthen the country had spun so far out of balance it had lost its center of gravity, writes Osnos. He explores how it happened through stellar reporting that blends a high-altitude view of national changes with close-ups of private citizens in three places hes lived in the U.S. Osnos is at his best in his superb portrait of Greenwich, Connecticut, where he grew up in the Golden Triangle that represented the highest concentration of wealth in America and where values shifted along with an influx of hedge fund money. Greenwich grandees once included people like Prescott Bush, the father and grandfather of future presidents, who believed, fundamentally, in the duty of government to help people who did not enjoy his considerable advantages. Conversely, the current generation tends to see its wealth as self-justifying and to prefer targeted private philanthropy to activities like serving on local charity boards. Osnos is slightly less insightful about Chicago, where Black residents have felt stung by the gap between their Obama-era hopes and the persistence of bigotry, and West Virginia, where predatory tactics by so-called vulture investors and others have robbed mineworkers of precious benefits. Other recent books have dealt more astutely with some of his subjectsChris McGreals American Overdose with West Virginias opioid epidemic and John Woodrow Coxs Children Under Fire with gun violencebut as an overview of a fractious ideological landscape, this skillful treatment is hard to beat.An elegant survey of the causes and effects of polarization in America. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The National Book Award–winning journalist examines the ideological gaps that have widened between 9/11 and the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol. After years of reporting from China, the longtime New Yorker staffer returned to find that America had lost its gift for “the rational approach, reason, the meeting of minds in honorable agreement after open argument” that John Gunther described in his 1947 bestseller, Inside U.S.A. “If American history is a story of constant rebalancing—between greed and generosity, industry and nature, identity and assimilation—then the country had spun so far out of balance it had lost its center of gravity,” writes Osnos. He explores how it happened through stellar reporting that blends a high-altitude view of national changes with close-ups of private citizens in three places he’s lived in the U.S. Osnos is at his best in his superb portrait of Greenwich, Connecticut, where he grew up in the “Golden Triangle” that “represented the highest concentration of wealth in America” and where values shifted along with an influx of hedge fund money. Greenwich grandees once included people like Prescott Bush, the father and grandfather of future presidents, “who believed, fundamentally, in the duty of government to help people who did not enjoy his considerable advantages.” Conversely, the current generation tends to see its wealth as self-justifying and to prefer “targeted private philanthropy” to activities like serving on “local charity boards.” Osnos is slightly less insightful about Chicago, where Black residents have felt stung by the gap between their Obama-era hopes and the persistence of bigotry, and West Virginia, where predatory tactics by so-called vulture investors and others have robbed mineworkers of precious benefits. Other recent books have dealt more astutely with some of his subjects—Chris McGreal’s American Overdose with West Virginia’s opioid epidemic and John Woodrow Cox’s Children Under Fire with gun violence—but as an overview of a fractious ideological landscape, this skillful treatment is hard to beat. An elegant survey of the causes and effects of polarization in America. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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