I didn’t exactly know what this book was heading in, except that it was a new history of the previous 40 years or so in the United States, a time period that covers a few years before I was born until my early 30s. The book is written as a series of people’s histories focusing on both large figures and small figures, while trying to avoid the “biggest” political figures. So we end up getting sections of stories that do look at and cover major periods of time and important political figures, while also focusing on local histories, ground-level perspectives, and the histories of the every day. This book reminds me most of the John Dos Passos USA Trilogy, except fully nonfiction (though still selective and narrated like a novel), in that we get both the continuing stories of a handful of main characters, and then selective biographies of other important (big) figures. Our main characters are a Black woman, blue-collar worker in Youngstown Ohio; a rising politico from Wall Street who affixes himself to Joe Biden and works as a staffer, a lobbyist, and a thank tanker; a small entrepreneur who moves toward producing biofuel; the whole county surrounding Tamp; and a close-up look at bonds/banking in the 90s and 2000. Big figures include Jay-Z, Oprah, Newt Gingrich, Raymond Carver, among others.
It’s an interesting book and the focus is not containing all that happened in a 30 year period, but helping to produce a sense of the a zeitgeist. It reads like an expansive biography.