Rendezvous With Oblivion

Rendezvous With Oblivion

Reports From A Sinking Society

Book - 2018
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From the acclaimed author of Listen, Liberal and What's the Matter with Kansas , a scathing collection of his incisive commentary on our cruel times--perfect for this political moment

What does a middle-class democracy look like when it comes apart? When, after forty years of economic triumph, America's winners persuade themselves that they owe nothing to the rest of the country?

With his sharp eye for detail, Thomas Frank takes us on a wide-ranging tour through present-day America, showing us a society in the late stages of disintegration and describing the worlds of both the winners and the losers--the sprawling mansion districts as well as the lives of fast-food workers.

Rendezvous with Oblivion is a collection of interlocking essays examining how inequality has manifested itself in our cities, in our jobs, in the way we travel--and of course in our politics, where in 2016, millions of anxious ordinary people rallied to the presidential campaign of a billionaire who meant them no good.

These accounts of folly and exploitation are here brought together in a single volume unified by Frank's distinctive voice, sardonic wit, and anti-orthodox perspective. They capture a society where every status signifier is hollow, where the allure of mobility is just another con game, and where rebellion too often yields nothing.

For those who despair of the future of our country and of reason itself, Rendezvous with Oblivion is a booster shot of energy, reality, and moral outrage.

Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781250293664
Branch Call Number: 306.20973 F8517R 2018
Characteristics: viii, 228 pages ; 22 cm


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Aug 26, 2018

Rendezvous with Oblivion is Mr. Frank’s most recent book. It is a series of essays he has written over the past several years about where the country is headed. The first section (Many Vibrant Mansions) deals with the problems with growing inequality of wealth and income (which leads to lower quality of life for everyone who is not super rich). The second part (Too Smart to Fail) addresses the problems in colleges and universities, and the fact that our young people are graduating from college with crushing debt. Part 3 (The Poverty of Centrism) discusses the failures of Clintonism and centrism, and harkens back to the theme of Listen, Liberal.

Honestly, these parts of the book are pretty depressing, even though Mr. Frank writes well.

I am glad I kept going, though, because the fourth part of the book is definitely worth reading. Called The Explosion, it includes essays called Why Millions of Ordinary Americans Support Donald Trump; Rendezvous with Oblivion; How the Democrats Could Win Again, if They Wanted; Main Street USA; and American Made Great Again. For example, Mr. Frank argues that people in middle America voted for the current president not because they are racists, but because they and their communities have been victims of “free trade”, which has caused so many companies and jobs to flee overseas. (He is not the first person to make that argument, but he is convincing.)

He argues persuasively that the Democratic party has become dominated by the educated elite and has lost touch with ordinary working Americans.

And he talks about what the Democrats need to do to win again: prosecute financial fraud; enforce antitrust laws; strengthen unions; get back to the Democratic Party FDR described in 1941: “the liberal party . . . believed in the wisdom and efficacy of the will of the great majority of the people, as distinguished from the judgment of a small minority of either education or wealth.”

Personally, I think Listen, Liberal is a better book, but this book is not bad, especially the last part.


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