The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer - review by D D Guttenplan

D D Guttenplan

New Deal to Raw Deal

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America


Faber & Faber 436pp £20

Reading George Packer’s account of the shredding of America’s social contract, it becomes clear that the author, a staff writer for the New Yorker, is no John Dos Passos. That’s not too surprising, since Dos Passos, who died in 1970, was always a one-off, whether as the communist-sympathising novelist whose trilogy U.S.A. remains the great epic of 20th-century America or as the Goldwater-admiring conspiracy theorist he became in old age. 

However, Packer does borrow some of Dos Passos’s stylistic tricks. He uses capsule biographies of famous Americans to set the social scene and interweaves his book, which is built around the life stories of four (relatively) unfamous Americans and one American city, with short, stream-of-consciousness collages of headlines, advertising copy,

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