AMERICAN NOMAD: Restless Politics in a Secret Country by Steve Erickson

AMERICAN NOMAD: Restless Politics in a Secret Country

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Fired from his job covering the 1996 presidential campaign for Rolling Stone, novelist Erickson (Amnesiascope, 1996, etc.) decides to stay on the candidates' trail and comes to some sobering conclusions about our country and its political legacy. Erickson attacks left, right, and center with equal abandon. Part rant and part serious analysis, often hysterically funny, American Nomad argues in a variety of ways that we have, in routinely choosing style over substance in our politicians, sold our Jeffersonian birthright for a mess of pottage. Take, for instance, his ""Sane Man/Crazy Man"" theory of electoral politics, wherein the most sane candidate wins the primaries, only to be defeated by the crazier candidate in the general election. This can get tricky, Erickson concedes, as in 1960 when the presidential race involved ""two undisputed psychotics."" Erickson applies the same scrutiny to himself and to a palpably neurotic Jann Wenner, to whose caprices Erickson is subject until he is finally sacked. Deciding to stay on the campaign trail, Erickson becomes an American nomad, but this moniker carries a heavier connotation. It also represents those who are ""possessed by their country's dangerous fever and estranged from their country by that fever."" Fellow travelers, in this sense, would include (according to Erickson) Whitman, Elvis, Nixon, and Philip K. Dick. A peculiar but ultimately rewarding digression on Nixon has Erickson playing with the reality of the last 17 years, suggesting an alternate universe where Carter has won reelection in 1980, and a slew of successors, including Ed Koch, have brought the country to even greater ruin. If American Nomad ranges widely (and wildly), plenty of actual election coverage, from the New Hampshire primary through the general election, is also mixed in. Erickson's saga operates brilliantly as both a political chronicle and a zany memoir.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt