The Dallas-based author of the excellent 2012 novel "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" looks back on Trump's 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton from a broad historical and philosophical perspective.
Along with summaries of monthly news events that occurred during the turbulent campaign, the book gathers searching, deeply researched essays that Fountain wrote for the Guardian.
That a British newspaper would offer such thoughtful reflections on America's chaotic politics shows the deficiencies of the American media.
Rather than a blow-by-blow recap of the Trump and Clinton campaigns, the book analyzes the election from a broader historical viewpoint.
With solid grounding in literature and historical facts, Fountain traces the decline of the American middle class, GOP-led efforts to preserve white supremacy, police violence against blacks and the cultural dominance of entertainment and celebrity. He indicts American "amnesia" and an avoidance of reality.
In analyzing the erosion of American democracy, Fountain draws upon books from well-known and obscure writers. With sometimes sardonic humor and a readable style, Fountain gives a comprehensive summary of American political thought that would be a good primer for college and high school students who are so often deprived of a basic civics education these days.
Without endorsing Bernie Sanders's socialism, Fountain demolishes conservatives' war against government begun by Ronald Reagan. He demonstrates that governmental support of the economy and education led to America's glowing prosperity after World War II.
Fountain's title comes from Robinson Jeffers' poem "Apologies for Bad Dreams," sounding a call for political and moral renewal. The California poet's jeremiad takes on deeper and ironic meaning after the recent devastating fires in Jeffers' native state and alarming climate change reports.
The book ends on a positive, if ambiguous, plea for a new commitment to America's "possibility." Countering the subtitle, Fountain places his hopes on rational thought, Jefferson's ideal of an informed, committed citizenry rather than violent revolution.
While sounding a clarion call for progressives, Fountain expresses the belief that moderate Americans also will heed his message and restore reason and justice to the political arena.