Joe Bageant writes an online column (www.joebageant.com) that has made him a cult hero among gonzo-journalism junkies and progressives. He has been interviewed on Air America and comments on America's long history of religious fundamentalism in the BBC/Owl documentary The Vision- Americans on America. Until recently he worked as a senior editor for the Primedia History Magazine Group.
In this trenchant, aggravating, humorous, and heartbreaking book, Bageant, whose blog, www.joebageant.com, has a bit of a cult following, uses a combination of political commentary, reporting, and storytelling to explore what he describes as an unacknowledged class war in the United States. Returning after 30 years to the "dirt-poor" neighborhoods of his native Winchester, VA, Bageant examines the lives of the working poor using the stories of his friends and neighbors. Through these bleak tales, he paints a picture of a permanent underclass exploited by the Right and forgotten or even disdained, by the Left. Bageant explores, among other things, gun culture, Christian fundamentalism, predatory mortgage lending, illiteracy, outsourcing, and the decline of the American healthcare system. Written as a wake-up and rallying call for progressives, the work is decidedly partisan. Bageant's writing is witty, bilious, tender, and cruel by turns. Though his style often engages, it also alienates. His perspective is so fresh and his message so important that it is frustrating that many readers may be put off by his approach. The book would have benefited from closer editing; it is a slim volume but could stand to be leaner still. Recommended for collections with a current affairs focus, especially those in public libraries.-Rachel Bridgewater, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.