Ben Fountain

Listen to the interview

We’re talking with Ben Fountain this week about his new book, Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (Ecco, September 25, 2018).

Writing on the Air is broadcast Wednesdays from 6-7pm Central from the KOOP Radio studios in Austin, Texas. We’re heard on 91.7FM KOOP – Austin and streaming online at KOOP.org.  You can also listen online at TuneIn.com and Radio Free America.  Episodes are available in our Radio Free America archive for two weeks after broadcast.

Did you know we have over 150 podcast episodes? We invite you to browse them here on our website; you can download the audios from each page. Our podcast is also available for download from the Podcast ap and iTunes.  

For show updates, be sure and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’re glad you’re here, and thanks for listening to our show.

Photo by Thorne Anderson

Ben Fountain’s latest book is Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (Ecco Books, September 25, 2018).

He is also the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and the novel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Billy Lynn was adapted into a feature film directed by three-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. His series of essays published in The Guardian on the 2016 U.S. presidential election was subsequently nominated by the editors of The Guardian for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary.

Ben Fountain was born in Chapel Hill and grew up in the tobacco country of eastern North Carolina. A former practicing attorney, he lives in Dallas with his wife of 32 years, Sharon Fountain.

Reviews of Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (Ecco, September 25, 2018)

“There may be no writer alive today who better captures the manic, fevered, paranoid style in 21st-century America than Ben Fountain…Beautiful Country Burn Again sits alongside Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 and Joan Didion’s coverage of the 1988 presidential campaign as some of the best political writing of the past 50 years.” Rolling Stone

If you only have time for one political book this season, I have just the one for you: Ben Fountain’s Beautiful Country Burn Again. It’s the boldest, bravest and most bracing book about politics that I have read this year. –Bill Moyers

“Sometimes it takes a novelist to capture a world gone mad…With clarity of mind and the most observant of eyes, Fountain gives us a memorable and unique portrait of…an American moment which is likely to shape us for far longer than any of us would like to contemplate.” —Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels

“Fountain vents [his] grievances with eloquence and bite…. steeped in history as well as outrage… Might leave singe marks on your fingers.”  Dallas News

“[Fountain] is not only a sharp writer but an astute observer of the human condition. And, it turns out, he’s got a sharp mind for politics and history, too…. The book is a captivating read — often humorous, infuriating, and depressing all at the same time.”  —Texas Observer

“Pithy and profound…. Fountain’s mix of salient lessons from the past and essential guideposts for the future is a must-have addition to the “how did we get here” canon of political scrutiny in and of the age of Trump.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Fountain’s vivid prose shows the novelist’s knack for revealing character through gesture and physicality…. Whip-smart and searching in its indictment of cant and falsity, this is perhaps the best portrait yet of an astounding election.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A masterpiece of a book, the true story of American possibility…So smart, so funny, so well-researched, so brilliantly argued, so scathing and at times shaming and, most of all, morally honest…I hope every word will find its way into the coarsening minds and hearts of every American.” —David Finkel, author of Thank You For Your Service

“Forceful… [Fountain] brandishes a full array of literary tools, including song, verse, historical, anecdotes, piles of research and plenty of satisfying takedowns to keep you on his ride…. His brutal observations could easily be the main feature of his work, yet Fountain has more important things to say and more ingenious ways to say them.” The New York Times Book Review

“[Ben Fountain’s] masterful original phrasings make the book worthwhile, urgent, and timely.” Kirkus

ABOUT Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (Ecco, September 25, 2018)

 “Ben Fountain’s BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY BURN AGAIN is the bravest, boldest, most bracing political book of the year.” –Bill Moyers

In a sweeping work of reportage set over the course of 2016, New York Times bestselling author Ben Fountain recounts a surreal year of politics and an exploration of the third American existential crisis

Twice before in its history, the United States has been faced with a crisis so severe it was forced to reinvent itself in order to survive: first, the struggle over slavery, culminating in the Civil War, and the second, the Great Depression, which led to President Roosevelt’s New Deal and the establishment of America as a social-democratic state. In a sequence of essays that excavate the past while laying bare the political upheaval of 2016, Ben Fountain argues that the United States may be facing a third existential crisis, one that will require a “burning” of the old order as America attempts to remake itself.

Beautiful Country Burn Again narrates a shocking year in American politics, moving from the early days of the Iowa Caucus to the crystalizing moments of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and culminating in the aftershocks of the weeks following election night. Along the way, Fountain probes deeply into history, illuminating the forces and watershed moments of the past that mirror and precipitated the present, from the hollowed-out notion of the American Dream, to Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, to our weaponized new conception of American exceptionalism, to the cult of celebrity that gave rise to Donald Trump.

In an urgent and deeply incisive voice, Ben Fountain has fused history and the present day to paint a startling portrait of the state of our nation.  Beautiful Country Burn Again is a searing indictment of how we came to this point, and where we may be headed. –Harper Collins