Mack B. Staff Picks
In a nutshell, this book replaces Odysseus with a graffiti artist/historian named Americo Monk, and replaces the Ancient Mediterranean with 1965 Los Angeles amidst the Watts riots, but let’s get into what really makes this book an incredible and unique read. By taking the formula used by Homer and Joyce and using it to tell the story of artists who are both figuratively and literally erased from the conversation of “real” art, Lombardo complicates not just the standard for who can be a hero or a monster, but who gets to decide such delineations. But beyond its lofty artistic assertions, the story sucks you in right away because of how damn fun it is – who said literary fiction couldn’t be driven by a great plot? If reading a book that blends history with fantasy and features encounters with The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, magical albino weed, Godzilla, and a one-eyed gangster who lives in the sewer, look no further my friend.
Fantasyland is an in-depth examination into the birth of “alternative facts” America, tracing the winding thread that connects Puritans and Jamestown settlers convinced they’d find mountains of gold to hippies rejecting medicine and evangelicals rejecting evolution. A truly crazy thing I learned about this book, which maybe you saw on the shelf, rolled your eyes at, and filed into the “another F’ing Trump book” part of your brain, is that he began writing it before Trump was even running. The absurdity of that whole campaign/ dystopic Newspeak Hell we inhabit today just led tons of credence to the points there were to be made about the only developed country where 7-out-of-10 people actually believe in Heaven, and 2-in-5 believe the Earth is 10,000 years old. As depressing, though fascinating, as that all may sound, the book is actually deeply comforting in a way with the authority with which it defends logic, science, and objectivity, giving the impression (to me at least) that hope is not entirely lost, and reason ultimately does win out over fantasy and delusion. Someone tell de Blasio! Funnily enough, the very week I finished the book Andersen was featured on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast for an interview that really opened the book up even wider – is God trying to tell me something, is Mercury in retrograde, or am I just a superstitious, self-obsessed American with delusions of grandeur?