The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

George Packer

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0374534608

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The 2013 National Book Award Winner
A New York Times Bestseller

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 tells the story of the past three decades by journeying through the lives of several Americans, including a son of tobacco farmers who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of
her city, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money, and a Silicon Valley billionaire who arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these stories with sketches of public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper
headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics. Packer's novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.

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gallon. That was why Red Birch had a failed business model—Dean said it to anyone who would listen. On the other hand, waste cooking oil was cheap: some restaurants charged fifty cents a gallon to pump it out of the barrels in back and take it away, some gave it away for free, and some even paid to have it removed. Fried chicken, livers and gizzards, pulled pork, fish, corn fritters, fried okra, french fries—just about everything eaten at restaurants in North Carolina was cooked in shiny

audience confessed that her son was her father’s child, and the young, dark, heavy, puff-haired host with the giant bronze earrings suddenly asked for a commercial break, hid her own crumpling face with her hand, cried into the woman’s shoulder, wrapped her arms around the woman for comfort, and said, “The same thing happened to me.” She had been molested by various male relatives almost continuously from ages nine to fourteen. (Five years later, the world learned that at fourteen Oprah had borne

and Palo Alto and Missoula and Santa Cruz and Cupertino. Every time they started to settle in, Ray would get restless and they would move on to somewhere else. The family’s main support was Maryann. She packed fruit, waited tables, sold encyclopedias door-to-door. Ray worked at a drugstore, a sawmill, a service station, and a stockroom, and as a night janitor at a hospital. The work was not ennobling. He would come home too wiped out to do anything. Ray wanted to write a novel. But a man who was

shot his friend. A few years later, a different car, sitting with a different friend and the middle brother, Dwayne, Edwin was shot three times in the back by a gunman in a ski mask. He survived. Both Dwayne and Edwin ended up doing serious prison time. Vickie’s house on Shehy Street was right next door to a store, F&N Food Market, that was notorious for trouble outside, including a craps game that drew violent gamblers. One day, Edwin and Dwayne—they were in their late teens—were shooting dice

many events that he would valet-park his car, walk in, break out in a rash, and decide to leave. After a couple of questions, he and someone new would have each other sized up in the city’s hierarchy—Biden guy, Clinton White House, works for Jack Quinn, telecom accounts—which determined how much they wanted to know each other. With the Alabama chip still on his shoulder, he was incapable of bullshitting about his own importance. He remained single, though he came close to marrying a couple of

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