Saturday, May 25, 2013

George Packer

George Packer's new book is The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.

From his Q & A at the publisher's website:

Alex Star: You’ve titled your book The Unwinding. What do you mean by that?

George Packer: It’s a word that a character in the book, Dean Price, once used. He was talking about the way that the economy in his part of the country — rural North Carolina, where tobacco and textiles used to be king — might revert to pre-industrial characteristics, with lots of small, local producers of food and energy taking the place of Bojangles’ restaurants and long-haul trucking.

As soon as he said it, the word resonated with me. But what I imagined wasn’t Dean’s future. I saw the present — a country where so many once-solid things were collapsing. Banks, governments, news organizations, small towns, main streets, shops, factories. You see it visibly all over the country, especially when you leave the prosperous coasts. And you find it across America in the unraveling of the fabric that connects people to one another. In short, “the unwinding” refers to the end of a deal Americans used to have with one another — a social contract.

Alex Star: Of course, there are many possible ways to write the end of that deal. Why did you choose to cover the dismantling of the social contract as you did – via biographies of figures known and unknown?

George Packer: I wanted to write a historical narrative about this unwinding — but not big history, conventional history, going from one major event and issue to the next. Instead, I wanted to convey what it has been like to be an American and live in this country during the years of my adulthood, the years since the late 1970s. I wanted to get at it from the inside out. And since the most powerful stories are often found....[read on]
Writers Read: George Packer (July 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue