America’s leading essayist on the frantic retreat of democracy, in the fire and smoke of the war on terror
In office as President of the United States, Donald J. Trump is undoubtedly a menace, but he isn’t a surprise. He embodies the spirit of an age of folly abandoned to conspicuous consumption of vanity and greed. A self-glorifying photo-op, Trump is made to the measure of an infotainment media in which presidential candidates are game show contestants brought to judgment on election day before the throne of cameras by whom and for whom they are produced.
To regard Trump as an amazement beyond belief is to give him credit where none is due, to mistake a symptom for the cause. Trump’s presence in the White House follows from an American regime change over the last twenty-five years during which a weakened but still operational democracy gave way to a stupefied and dysfunctional plutocracy.
The history of that change is a hedge against the despair of the present, making possible the revolt against what G. K. Chesterton called “the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
“[Illustrates] how and why our democracy has given way to a dysfunctional plutocracy of the super-rich, by the super-rich, and for the super-rich. Taken together, the book’s essays, published between 1990 and 2016 in Lapham’s Quarterly and Harper’s, serve as a powerful and alarming American history…With Age of Folly, Lapham provides the historical context needed to understand our current political moment.” – Adam Boretz, The Millions
“Without doubt our greatest satirist—elegant, honorable, learned and fair. I love reading him.” – Kurt Vonnegut
“Lewis Lapham—born of Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken—is the most provocative and engaging essayist in the country.” – George Plimpton
“One of the last liberal thinkers, a man of elegant humor. Should he wander onto the premises of Fox TV, he’d surely be shot down like a dog.” – Liz Smith
“Lapham’s indignation is ecumenical, his scorn spread as smoothly as butter from left to right and north to south across the face of contemporary America.” – Boston Globe
“Lapham is a wonderful writer, a connoisseur of the perfect word.” – Business Week
“The combination of Lapham’s urbane prose and lethal wit … makes for delightful reading.” – Forbes
“To read Lapham’s work, so erudite and conscientious, is to realize that saving our democracy will take bold-face truth-telling, bravery and a populace willing to change: An alchemical improbability. However, if you can read this book and not want to commit to the work necessary to save our democracy, you are already lost.” – Literary Hub
“Although frequently dark, The Age of Folly comes with much humor and elegant writing … Lapham’s sharp prose pricks the self-importance of the powerful, who too often parade with claim to omniscience and omnipotency … Highly recommended.” – R.J. Terchek, University of Maryland College Park, CHOICE