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An incisive cultural history that captures a fractious nation through the prism of television and the rattled mind of a celebrity president. Television has entertained America, television has ensorcelled America, and with the election of Donald J. Trump, television has conquered America. In Audience of One, New York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik traces the An incisive cultural history that captures a fractious nation through the prism of television and the rattled mind of a celebrity president. Television has entertained America, television has ensorcelled America, and with the election of Donald J. Trump, television has conquered America. In Audience of One, New York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik traces the history of TV and mass media from the Reagan era to today, explaining how a volcanic, camera-hogging antihero merged with America’s most powerful medium to become our forty-fifth president. In the tradition of Neil Postman’s masterpiece Amusing Ourselves to Death, Audience of One shows how American media have shaped American society and politics, by interweaving two crucial stories. The first story follows the evolution of television from the three-network era of the 20th century, which joined millions of Americans in a shared monoculture, into today’s zillion-channel, Internet-atomized universe, which sliced and diced them into fractious, alienated subcultures. The second story is a cultural critique of Donald Trump, the chameleonic celebrity who courted fame, achieved a mind-meld with the media beast, and rode it to ultimate power. Braiding together these disparate threads, Poniewozik combines a cultural history of modern America with a revelatory portrait of the most public American who has ever lived. Reaching back to the 1940s, when Trump and commercial television were born, Poniewozik illustrates how Donald became “a character that wrote itself, a brand mascot that jumped off the cereal box and entered the world, a simulacrum that replaced the thing it represented.” Viscerally attuned to the media, Trump shape-shifted into a boastful tabloid playboy in the 1980s; a self-parodic sitcom fixture in the 1990s; a reality-TV “You’re Fired” machine in the 2000s; and finally, the biggest role of his career, a Fox News–obsessed, Twitter-mad, culture-warring demagogue in the White House. Poniewozik deconstructs the chaotic Age of Trump as the 24-hour TV production that it is, decoding an era when politics has become pop culture, and vice versa. Trenchant and often slyly hilarious, Audience of One is a penetrating and sobering review of the raucous, raging, farcical reality show—performed for the benefit of an insomniac, cable-news-junkie “audience of one”—that we all came to live in, whether we liked it or not.


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An incisive cultural history that captures a fractious nation through the prism of television and the rattled mind of a celebrity president. Television has entertained America, television has ensorcelled America, and with the election of Donald J. Trump, television has conquered America. In Audience of One, New York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik traces the An incisive cultural history that captures a fractious nation through the prism of television and the rattled mind of a celebrity president. Television has entertained America, television has ensorcelled America, and with the election of Donald J. Trump, television has conquered America. In Audience of One, New York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik traces the history of TV and mass media from the Reagan era to today, explaining how a volcanic, camera-hogging antihero merged with America’s most powerful medium to become our forty-fifth president. In the tradition of Neil Postman’s masterpiece Amusing Ourselves to Death, Audience of One shows how American media have shaped American society and politics, by interweaving two crucial stories. The first story follows the evolution of television from the three-network era of the 20th century, which joined millions of Americans in a shared monoculture, into today’s zillion-channel, Internet-atomized universe, which sliced and diced them into fractious, alienated subcultures. The second story is a cultural critique of Donald Trump, the chameleonic celebrity who courted fame, achieved a mind-meld with the media beast, and rode it to ultimate power. Braiding together these disparate threads, Poniewozik combines a cultural history of modern America with a revelatory portrait of the most public American who has ever lived. Reaching back to the 1940s, when Trump and commercial television were born, Poniewozik illustrates how Donald became “a character that wrote itself, a brand mascot that jumped off the cereal box and entered the world, a simulacrum that replaced the thing it represented.” Viscerally attuned to the media, Trump shape-shifted into a boastful tabloid playboy in the 1980s; a self-parodic sitcom fixture in the 1990s; a reality-TV “You’re Fired” machine in the 2000s; and finally, the biggest role of his career, a Fox News–obsessed, Twitter-mad, culture-warring demagogue in the White House. Poniewozik deconstructs the chaotic Age of Trump as the 24-hour TV production that it is, decoding an era when politics has become pop culture, and vice versa. Trenchant and often slyly hilarious, Audience of One is a penetrating and sobering review of the raucous, raging, farcical reality show—performed for the benefit of an insomniac, cable-news-junkie “audience of one”—that we all came to live in, whether we liked it or not.

30 review for Audience of One: Television, Donald Trump, and the Fracturing of America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest AN AUDIENCE OF ONE is an interesting book that is part biography, part election postmortem, and part pop-cultural essay that explores Donald Trump's manufactured on-screen persona and the shifting attitudes of the American populace that put him on screen and made him an appealing candidate to so many disenfranchised voters in the first place despite any serious political experience and problematic views towards everything. Author James P Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest AN AUDIENCE OF ONE is an interesting book that is part biography, part election postmortem, and part pop-cultural essay that explores Donald Trump's manufactured on-screen persona and the shifting attitudes of the American populace that put him on screen and made him an appealing candidate to so many disenfranchised voters in the first place despite any serious political experience and problematic views towards everything. Author James Poniewozik chalks Trump's appeal to his base and "entertainment news" up to three factors. 1. A view towards how we view the rich. Trump is, as Fran Lebowitz famously said, the poor person's idea of a rich man. Being working class and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps used to be the ideological mantra of the United States, but that's shifted a lot, due in part to how entertainment has portrayed rich people and a culture that suggests that you can become very rich and famous for doing very little (Kardashians, YouTubers, etc.). Trump does not contribute much value to culture or to industry or to academia (and, indeed, has boasted as much in some cases), and to disenfranchised people who don't have jobs they want, and are blocked by doing so from factors out of their control, these "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" (John Steinbeck) find Trump's lifestyle of tasteless conspicuous consumption incredibly appealing; it's all the trappings of wealth, but with no class. 2. A view towards how we view antiheroes. Poniewozik cites many examples, notably Tony Soprano and Archie Bunker, of men who are not good people, and yet are the "heroes" of their own stories in entertainment. There is some degree of cognitive dissonance when watching such characters speak or act: you know that what they are doing is bad, but get some pleasure in watching them misbehave. That pleasure drives viewers to root for that character, if only so they can see what they're going to do next. Reality TV is a prime example of this, and The Apprentice, you could argue, is the poor man's envisioning of what corporate culture is like: polished facades, no serious work being done, and everything revolving around a pompous jerk everyone sucks up to who gets to say "you're fired." 3. An ideological shift in the right wing. Conservatives rallied against Obama's election and basically became a party of obstruction, and instead of having a solid platform of ideas for progress and change, they became the "NO" party that dragged its feet and resisted change of any kind. If you look at graphs of liberal vs. conservative attitudes, you'll see that while liberals have gotten a little more liberal over the years, conservatives have become way more conservative. Vox media recently did a video about this, and it's called asymmetric polarization. Trump appealed to people who were becoming increasingly offended by what they perceived as a liberal door shutting them out of their country. If you're privileged and have gone about life having that privilege unchecked, equality is going to seem like things are being "taken away," even if what's really happening is that people who are different from you are just getting the same opportunities you always took for granted. The "MAGA" slogan allowed these individuals to imagine a time when they didn't have to worry or care about what anyone else thought of their actions, and they didn't have to be personally accountable to the effects of these thoughts and actions on others. It was built on selfishness and intolerance, without ever actually explicitly saying either of those two words. It is, essentially, the "Me, Me, Me!" party. AUDIENCE OF ONE is a really difficult read because what it is is essentially a study in narcissism, both in Trump and the people who voted for him. There was a glut of articles and click-bait after Trump became president analyzing both him and his voters and trying to figure out How This Happened, but this book isn't quite that. It's more of a series of essays that do a cultural deep-dive into the factors that made the United States so detached and jaded as a viewing audience, and the type of leader that might appeal to someone who votes for a bad candidate just to "shake things up." I liked this book but I do think it goes on a lot of tangents. There are huge swaths of this book that are about reality TV, anti-heroes in television shows, and various other things. To his credit, Poniewozik always ties these apparent narrative wanderings back to his original topic, but I think it made this book much longer than it had to be. I will say, though, that this book has what is perhaps one of my favorite descriptions of Trump: "a self-inflated gold-lamé balloon high on his own helium." YES. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 3.5 to 4 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    "Jason, a young Cuban-American man in Florida, told a reporter that he believed 'Trump is ****ing crazy. The whole system is ****ed, so why not vote for the craziest guy, so we can see the craziest **** happen? At least Trump is fun to watch.' [That] is a horrifying statement on a civic level, but give Jason credit for seeing Trump for what he was: the number one TV show in America." -- page 209 Eisenhower may have had the first televised press conference, Kennedy may have famously turned the ele "Jason, a young Cuban-American man in Florida, told a reporter that he believed 'Trump is ****ing crazy. The whole system is ****ed, so why not vote for the craziest guy, so we can see the craziest **** happen? At least Trump is fun to watch.' [That] is a horrifying statement on a civic level, but give Jason credit for seeing Trump for what he was: the number one TV show in America." -- page 209 Eisenhower may have had the first televised press conference, Kennedy may have famously turned the election his way with an early televised debate, but author James Poniewozik presents a pop cultural / sociological examination of how our 45th POTUS and television have been figuratively joined at the hip, as well as being an influence on each other, for nearly 40 years. ('Ground zero' is argued to be an otherwise forgotten October 1981 TV special, when the interviewer off-handedly questioned young Trump about the potential for a presidential bid in the distant future.) The author presents equal doses of U.S. TV history and character biography, and details how for the first time a non-traditional non-politician - more known for his years of various media appearances, as well as starring in a long-running 'reality' series - was chosen / elected to the nation's highest office in 2016. Far from being a dreary read, this is one of those books that, to use a tired sentiment, brings history alive. The author knows how to craft an amusing phrase (one example: "The 'Overton window' . . . describes the range of acceptable public discourse, which can be shifted by persistent enough extreme speech. Trump's effect was to fling open the Overton window and shove the truth, arms flailing, straight out of it.") but also intelligently opines that the proliferation of reality shows, the increase in cable networks / 24-hour news cycles, the increased use of anti-heroes as main characters, and our ever-escalating social media resources have all played some part in the selection of our current president. It was a truly fascinating read - entertaining, eye-opening, and more than a little concerning.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is probably the best book I've read making sense of Trump and the modern political movement he represents. It's also a perfect follow-up to Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to death." We have created a TV president and he will rule us by the dictates of the flashing red light. There are so many beautiful and insightful phrases in the book that it was a delight to read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Barnhart

    I’m not at all surprised that James Poniewozik’s book was so widely covered in the press and on the Sunday morning yak shows. He’s explained Trump in a way the political analysts haven’t been able to - that’s because Poniewozik insists on viewing the president through the lens of television and ONLY through that lens. That’s hard to sustain through a whole book but Poniewozik is able to draw on vast knowledge of the medium and write in a way that’s constantly entertaining, whether it’s calling P I’m not at all surprised that James Poniewozik’s book was so widely covered in the press and on the Sunday morning yak shows. He’s explained Trump in a way the political analysts haven’t been able to - that’s because Poniewozik insists on viewing the president through the lens of television and ONLY through that lens. That’s hard to sustain through a whole book but Poniewozik is able to draw on vast knowledge of the medium and write in a way that’s constantly entertaining, whether it’s calling Patrick Buchanan “the lungfish on the evolutionary chain of Trumpism” or predicting that the future Trump Presidential Library will probably just be a giant TiVo. For years I was enthralled by Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death as a way of understanding why TV is so bad at covering the issues most vital to the health of a democracy. But AUDIENCE OF ONE is taking its place on my shelf. It has a respect for the medium that Postman never had, and Poniewozik’s argument (unlike Postman’s) is one that will resonate with readers and television watchers now and for years to come.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard Z.

    I know, I know, I get it I really do. Who wants to read another book about Donald Trump? Who wants to read a book about how he manipulated the media (the media who made millions of dollars for and from him) into becoming President? We know the story. We are living the damn story. But this quick, brilliant book is worth it. Poniewozik has written a brief autobiography of Trump and a detailed biography of Television itself. From the dawn of TV through today, Poniewozik uses an archivist’s mind to I know, I know, I get it I really do. Who wants to read another book about Donald Trump? Who wants to read a book about how he manipulated the media (the media who made millions of dollars for and from him) into becoming President? We know the story. We are living the damn story. But this quick, brilliant book is worth it. Poniewozik has written a brief autobiography of Trump and a detailed biography of Television itself. From the dawn of TV through today, Poniewozik uses an archivist’s mind to explore details, interviews, TV programs, that came and went in the blink of an eye but that were key stepping stones to our present day. I won’t forget his description of Tom Brokaw’s toast colored suit, set, and generally toast colored persona. The book is funny, compelling, and so smart.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    I received an ARC of this book at Library Journal's Day of Dialog, and couldn’t stop reading it. Poniewozik presents the very logical conclusion that Trump is a creature of television by relating the cultural history of television along with Trump's story, especially his interactions with television. Very informative, well-researched, and, in places, humorous. Highly recommended. My main takeaway: Trump was not really a businessman; he just played one on TV. Watch him or not, we all got suckered I received an ARC of this book at Library Journal's Day of Dialog, and couldn’t stop reading it. Poniewozik presents the very logical conclusion that Trump is a creature of television by relating the cultural history of television along with Trump's story, especially his interactions with television. Very informative, well-researched, and, in places, humorous. Highly recommended. My main takeaway: Trump was not really a businessman; he just played one on TV. Watch him or not, we all got suckered.

  7. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    Like many readers, I'm fascinated by America's current political moment and how we got here. I've read several of the revelatory books about what's been called a "tabloid presidency." But I believe Poniewozik's Audience of One is the most interesting and one which breaks new ground. Other books I'd read offered little analysis. They mostly retold the administration's outrages and provided little examination behind what we'd intuited between the lines of CNN coverage. Poniewozik, though, doesn't Like many readers, I'm fascinated by America's current political moment and how we got here. I've read several of the revelatory books about what's been called a "tabloid presidency." But I believe Poniewozik's Audience of One is the most interesting and one which breaks new ground. Other books I'd read offered little analysis. They mostly retold the administration's outrages and provided little examination behind what we'd intuited between the lines of CNN coverage. Poniewozik, though, doesn't spend time recapitulating the litany of Trump's offenses. He analyzes American television and he analyzes Trump to show us where and how they intersect. It's simultaneously a political analysis of our present moment and a critical analysis of the history of television. The premise is simple: Poniewizik explains that TV has shaped Trump's outlook on the world and his approach to everything he does. One can easily see TV's influence in the examples used to demonstrate this. The 1st part of the book is mostly about Trump's origins. The middle section is a history of television and the ways what we watch shapes taste and national character. The final section describes how Trump essentially mirrors the character of current TV. The history begins in the tranquil days when there were only 3 or 4 networks and the fare was family-oriented. We all loved Ed Sullivan and Lucille Ball just as we later loved Happy Days and The Beverly Hillbillies. These segued into edgier material bringing us antiheroes like Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners and Archie Bunker in All in the Family, flawed characters who brought America's problems screaming into living rooms. A watershed time for TV was the advent of cable. This is the event which Poniewozik describes as the fracturing of America; it provided us dozen of different bubbles and niches to interest us and allowed for wider program diversity. HBO and everything after allowed themes the networks couldn't. The antihero went on steroids in such shows as The Sopranos and Breaking Bad by redefining who the protagonists of TV shows could be. Tony Soprano, Don Draper of Mad Men, and Walter White were all magnetic characters, powerful and aggressive. They were sometimes monsters, but they were winners, a quality Trump extols. Survivor, American Idol, and The Apprentice are examples of the next wave of television capturing our imaginations and interest, reality TV. Everyone knows that The Apprentice was the vehicle most responsible for making Trump a celebrity. To Poniewozik it's clear that in the past few decades the evolution of television has changed America in ways making someone like the obnoxious Donald Trump not only palatable but electable. How easily TV and Trump blended into American politics is scary. It's a thoroughly engaging story, how Trump the businessman begat Trump the brand (like oatmeal's Quaker or Aunt Jemima selling pancakes) who begat the reality TV star who begat the presidential candidate who ran as an antihero. Always a fan of TV and later immersed in it, he now manipulates it for his purposes and governs as he controlled the competition on The Apprentice. More, Poniewozik concludes that Trump has developed into a man who's always performing. He doesn't know any other way to interact in public and, since he lacks the necessary background, can't seriously engage in the business of the country other than as performance. So you can see the way in which the 2 tracks of Poniewozik's story come together today produces an alarming state of affairs. As I say, other books on Trump I've read can demonstrate his unfitness but none I've read has successfully shown how he came into our lives as the character he is.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Craig

    This is a must read book to understand Donald Trump in a cultural setting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    Audience of One is an unusual book. It's an account of Donald Trump, but isn't a biography. Nor is it an analysis of his 2016 campaign, his shambolic presidency, or his cultural moment. Instead Poniewozik focuses on Trump's relationship to... television. This is long overdue. Many critics - and many fans - downplay the role of tv in understanding Trump. Sometimes they want to focus on his use of social media. Other times they fall into the modern trap of failing to think critically about televisi Audience of One is an unusual book. It's an account of Donald Trump, but isn't a biography. Nor is it an analysis of his 2016 campaign, his shambolic presidency, or his cultural moment. Instead Poniewozik focuses on Trump's relationship to... television. This is long overdue. Many critics - and many fans - downplay the role of tv in understanding Trump. Sometimes they want to focus on his use of social media. Other times they fall into the modern trap of failing to think critically about television, as it has entered that media soft spot: ubiquitous, old enough to verge on nostalgia, yet partaking enough of new media as to not merit disdain. Instead, as Poniewozik argues, tv is central to understanding Trump as a human being and as a politician. Audience of One is a biography by tv, tracking Trump's life from his childhood through the first years in the White House. Key points include: -tv's shift from a focus on the working and middle class to worshipping the rich (33) -the shift from a handful of networks to many tv niches -Trump's combination of being an "idol of production" (an economic leader, like Steve Jobs) and an idol of consumption (a big-spending celeb) (42) -Fox not only as ally, but testing ground for political arguments and style (164-169) -the boom in reality tv, and its ethos of cruelty (107, 117) -the crucial role of sycophantic media coverage (tv, of course, but also print magazines and newspapers) dating back to the 1970s (18, 62) -the success of the antihero in modern tv storytelling (89) -Trump relies on both short and long attention spans (think soundbite versus Q-anon)(206) -Trump changed the GOP in one key way: "The Republican party was used to running against pop culture" (216); now it partook deeply. -Trump didn't and doesn't control Fox News. Instead, "[m]ore often... the media was controlling the state." (257) The book is very accessible, written in a kind of hyper, post-Hunter Thompson energy. Audience of One is fond of punchy metaphors, repetition, and a dark sense of humor. For example,Even Glenn Beck, the man who saw fascism on the back of a dime, dismissed [the Obama birther story]. And yet it was out there... potent - the pure, black-tar, straight-to-the-artery speedball version of Fox's usual intoxicant - and hanging out there for anyone to use if only they were unencumbered by shame. (164) I found the book very appealing, in part because I despise tv news and am therefore predisposed to like arguments along that line. I also appreciated learning about tv I never saw - here, The Apprentice and Fox News - as it gives me more context for understanding Trump's career. Much as I enjoyed the book, and it confirmed some of my own thinking, I was disappointed by some of it. First, I was surprised that Poniewozik downplayed some elements that would have strengthened his case. He only briefly touches on Pat Buchanan, who is another example of a tv star turned politician. (150) He barely mentions Trump's pro wrestling career, which seems like a fine example of his evolving persona. (197-99) Second, the book isn't clear where its argument is going. The author is smart enough to pull back from a simple, determinist case: It's not as simple as saying that TV "made" people vote for Donald Trump (though it surely helped him) or that people were misled by reality TV into seeing him as other than he was (though surely some were).(234)Instead Poniewozik concludes that Trump partook of story content made popular by the recent iterations of tv culture (235). Which seems plausible, yet not too powerful an argument to hang a passionate book upon. More powerful, perhaps, is the concurrent argument that Trump is simply a tv fan before almost all else. He watches tv deeply, continuously, passionately, and builds his life around it. Consider this disturbing glimpse:...critics, lobbyists, and corporations trying to persuade or curry favor with the administration started reaching out to the president, not by booking meetings, but by buying commercial time on the TV news shows he binge-watched. It was real that Trump's own staff created TV events to placate, control, and persuade him. Things were more real to Trump if he saw them on TV. People were more real if he saw them on TV - even people he saw, in person, every day. (265)This goes beyond storytelling into some other area. We're still only two years into the Trump presidency, although it feels longer. It's early days for books about this shambles. Audience of One is a very useful contribution.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fred Klein

    This is an interesting dual biography of (i) television and the fragmentation of America, and (ii) the character "Donald Trump". I was disturbed early in the book because the author refers to Jimmy Carter using the word "malaise", which did not do in what has become known as the "malaise speech". I've seen footage of his enemy, Ted Kennedy, using the word "malaise" about the speech, but Carter did not. If this is fixed in future editions, I could give it four stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jill Verenkoff

    If Abraham Lincoln - a homely, unsmiling man - were to run for president today, he wouldn’t have a chance. “New York Times” television critic James Poniewozik explains that we are living in the era of the branded celebrity politician, a by-product of television and its around-the-clock entertainment cycle. Television has “elevated image over the word and thus appearance over substance.” How would Old Abe hold up in an election today pitted against personalities like Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarz If Abraham Lincoln - a homely, unsmiling man - were to run for president today, he wouldn’t have a chance. “New York Times” television critic James Poniewozik explains that we are living in the era of the branded celebrity politician, a by-product of television and its around-the-clock entertainment cycle. Television has “elevated image over the word and thus appearance over substance.” How would Old Abe hold up in an election today pitted against personalities like Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jessie Ventura or Donald Trump? The answer is the essence of “Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.” Poniewozik LOOSELY weaves together two narrative stories: “how TV affected our relationships with society, with politics, with one another” and how “Donald Trump achieved symbiosis with the medium.” Some of Poniewozik’s examples of television shows that influenced Donald Trump are unprovable and seem forced to fit Poniewozik’s narrative. Is Trump’s meme “law and order” a product of his watching the series “Dragnet”? Does his love of regality stem from his mother’s fascination with the televised coronation of Queen Elizabeth II? Are Trump’s border campaign and “toxic racial imagery” a result of his watching Fess Parker in “Davy Crocket,” a show that “demonized Native Americans as savages assailing peaceful white settlers and pitted Americans against an invading horde at the Mexican border”? I do not know. Although his TV examples may be a reach and his rhetoric, loaded, most of Poniewozik’s commentary is engaging and thought provoking. Television, he writes, “evolved from a Great Homogenizer of the twentieth century to the Great Fragmenter of the twenty-first.” We no longer get our news from three major networks, all on the same page, he observes; but we cherry pick our news from hundreds of diverse, conflicting information outlets to justify our biases. Facts have lost their value, and truth has become so elusive that we now worship at the dual altars of appearances and emotionalism. It does not matter what is true, only what moves us. Narrative is key, according to Poniewozik . . . and many Americans have been seduced by Trump’s carefully fabricated television image as a billionaire playboy and all-powerful god aloft in a gilded tower who proclaims, “You’re fired!” Team Trump reveres his Wizard of Oz persona - full of fire, fury, and glitz - and dismisses his history, the man behind the curtain. “All the theatrical power of TV is invested in making one aging man look desirable, one skinflint look generous, one checkered business career look flawless, one accumulation of set dressing look like reality.” Much of Poniewozik’s discussion of TV shows and what they indicate about where our heads were at the time is entertaining, a trip down TV memory lane.His commentary is easy to digest and often illuminating especially when he ties it to postmodern thought: “. . . Donald Trump the simulacrum, the performance, had in Baudrillardian fashion eclipsed Donald Trump the businessman-so much so that the former would have to bail out the latter.” Poniewozik writes powerfully and often humorously. He describes Trump’s gaudy residence as a symbol of Trumpian excess, “rich, rich, rich, the visual equivalent of chasing a seventy-two-piece box of chocolate truffles with a tub of foie gras.” For Trump’s loyal minions, this book might rattle your image of him and challenge your collective consciousness. For those who want more justification to scorn Trump, however, you will relish this read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Explains a helluva lot. The thesis is simple: without TV there is no President Trump. I don’t typically seek out books about our current president. He sucks up more than enough of my attention as-is, but to me this book transcends its person of interest to become a fascinating critique of America’s character as told through the prism of television history. It’s not just that without TV there is no President Trump, rather he is a product of TV as it has become. Back in the 80s Trump was quoted sa Explains a helluva lot. The thesis is simple: without TV there is no President Trump. I don’t typically seek out books about our current president. He sucks up more than enough of my attention as-is, but to me this book transcends its person of interest to become a fascinating critique of America’s character as told through the prism of television history. It’s not just that without TV there is no President Trump, rather he is a product of TV as it has become. Back in the 80s Trump was quoted saying he could never become President because he wasn’t nice enough and held some unpopular views, therefore not electable. That was true...in the America of limited broadcast TV where the goal of media was universal appeal. But in an America of cable television and now YouTube/Twitter we have subscribed to a reality show competition, WWE version of reality where you are either a winner or a loser. The simulacrum of reality is more interesting than reality itself. The antihero just does what is necessary to win and you love him for it. What that antihero says may or may not be what he actually means, yet he’s the only one telling it like it is. What he says may not be factually true, but at least he’s stopped being polite and started getting real. This is a warped reality, but it is Trump’s reality and the country is increasingly succumbing to it. But according to Poniewozik, the good news is there are other narratives worth watching. We can see this production for what it is and collectively decide it’s time to change the channel. Time for me to go watch The Good Place.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tom Walsh

    Spot-On Analysis of Two American Phenomena There are so many things to say about this book. Poniewozik takes the reader on a journey through the history of Television from its earliest days, not as a historian, but rather to discover the roots and development of its most horrific creation, Donald J. Trump. It is a terrifying ride, made more sickening by its accuracy and the reality that we have lived with every day since 2015. He traces the merger of this dreadful character with the most powerfull Spot-On Analysis of Two American Phenomena There are so many things to say about this book. Poniewozik takes the reader on a journey through the history of Television from its earliest days, not as a historian, but rather to discover the roots and development of its most horrific creation, Donald J. Trump. It is a terrifying ride, made more sickening by its accuracy and the reality that we have lived with every day since 2015. He traces the merger of this dreadful character with the most powerfully influential invention of the Twentieth Century. The qualities Trump demonstrates each day are not just the result of bad genes and horrible upbringing but the result of a personality disorder amplified by the power of TV. Trump saw what the Camera’s Red Light demanded and what it could do to its audience and transformed himself from just a laughable petty grifter into a manipulator capable of ripping out the Soul of a fragile Society at a tenuous time in its History. Audience of One achieves what so many Trump analyses have failed to deliver. They have talked about his childhood, his misogyny, his cruelty, ignorance and pathology, but none have identified the most powerful influence of all: Television. Poniewicz makes a convincing case for the real explanation. Trump is not only a creation of TV, he has become TV. TV at its most captivating and dangerous: the Monster that dominates all of American Life. Beware the Red Light. Turn off the TV. Read this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I was looking for something a bit more academic, so my rating reflects a bit of disappointment. Poniewozoik argues his points well but we aren't given a broad enough picture. The author depends on the reader accepting his assumptions and the prose moves quickly ignoring or glossing over thoughts and questions that might occur to the reader. For example, there a lengthy history describing television broadcasting's greatest hits, which led from the big three to the big four broadcast channels and I was looking for something a bit more academic, so my rating reflects a bit of disappointment. Poniewozoik argues his points well but we aren't given a broad enough picture. The author depends on the reader accepting his assumptions and the prose moves quickly ignoring or glossing over thoughts and questions that might occur to the reader. For example, there a lengthy history describing television broadcasting's greatest hits, which led from the big three to the big four broadcast channels and then to cable outlets. There is little accompanying information on the consolidation of American broadcast media, the interests behind that consolidation, loosening of FCC restrictions, politicization of media, or such topics. Instead we have a TV critic's slant on Trump and television with both Trump and television being hyperbolized in the process. There is useful information here but without more cited academic support, this reads like just another book capitalizing on the Trump phenomenon, explaining a facet but leaving far more questions for a thoughtful reader.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    I keep going back between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I think that’s a sign that it’s more 3.5. Anyway, let me start off by saying that I am very tired of the “Trump book” sub-genre that has popped up over the last several years. The main reason I gave this book a chance is that I heard the author on a podcast several months ago and thought the approach to diagnosing American culture and its relationship to politics through the lens of television was an interesting argument. To me, this is one of the b I keep going back between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I think that’s a sign that it’s more 3.5. Anyway, let me start off by saying that I am very tired of the “Trump book” sub-genre that has popped up over the last several years. The main reason I gave this book a chance is that I heard the author on a podcast several months ago and thought the approach to diagnosing American culture and its relationship to politics through the lens of television was an interesting argument. To me, this is one of the better reads that explains “how we got to where we are” with a reality tv star as President and how the evolution of the media has played a vital role. In short, Audience of One is a fascinating read if you, like me, find the cultural history and sociology of this country over the last 40 years inherently of interest. How we went from decency and decorum on TV with “least objectionable programming” on the only three networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS to the birth of cable television, cable news, reality tv, prestige dramas that celebrate the antihero, makes for a compelling read. The shift from a monoculture of the 70s and 80s to the fragmented media landscape of today is something that most of these “Trump books” fail to discuss, or dismiss entirely. I appreciated that Poniewozik purposefully avoided Trump’s presidency, and focused on how we as a country, elected this man, who the author argues is the embodiment of television itself—constantly pushing the envelope knowing full well that there is an audience full of both supporters and critics that will continue to stare into the big black hole and watch the reality tv show that is our government. To put it simply, without TV we wouldn’t have Trump in the White House, but we live in a culture full of humans who have been conditioned over decades to expect that our media keep us entertained, full of drama and conflict. Poniewozik doesn’t offer much in terms of solutions, although it is pretty evident to me that the politics and politicians of yesterday will no longer cut it. 3.75/5

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Reasonably good, but not revelatory -- much of the book describes what the general public already intuits and media students already understand. Also docking a point for style: while I largely agree with the author's assessments, he veers into snark that isn't any cleverer or funnier than what you'll find on social media. If you're going to make a book of it, you've got to produce something more incisive than what we can read any given minute on Twitter.

  17. 4 out of 5

    El_kiablo

    John Mulaney has a stand up bit where he compares Donald Trump being in the White House to a wild horse being in a (human) hospital. I get the point of the bit and I don't entirely disagree - it is true that both Trump and the horse are agents of chaos who are ill suited to their environment - but I do think that his routine sells the situation a bit short, because there's no good explanation for why you'd want to unleash a wild animal into an emergency room, but... there are a lot of explanatio John Mulaney has a stand up bit where he compares Donald Trump being in the White House to a wild horse being in a (human) hospital. I get the point of the bit and I don't entirely disagree - it is true that both Trump and the horse are agents of chaos who are ill suited to their environment - but I do think that his routine sells the situation a bit short, because there's no good explanation for why you'd want to unleash a wild animal into an emergency room, but... there are a lot of explanations as to why people wanted to unleash Trump on this country. In the three years that Trump has been president I have gone from seeing him as a total outlier in partisan politics to seeing him as the logical endpoint for multiple long-gestating political trends. This is partly because Trump has managed to reshape his party in his image and the more that rank and file Republicans adopt his unaplogetically crude attitude the more the Trumpian approach to politics starts to seem "normal". However, this is also because when Trump first hit the scene in 2015 I saw him as a joke and didn't spend enough time really thinking about why he appealed to people. With the benefit of hindsight I see that I was being naive - I'm a person who doesn't spend much time watching television so I was badly out of touch with the zeitgeist. I never watched the Apprentice so I had no idea why people could think that he was a genius businessman; I had never listened to Howard Stern so I had no idea why anyone would think that he was fun or likeable; I hadn't been watching cable news so I didn't understand why people thought that he had any credible political insights. But I was in the minority on those fronts; while my head was in the sand millions and millions of people were watching him climb out of his helicopter onto his gold plated high rise's rooftop hellipad... So of course they saw Trump differently than I did! It is so much easier to believe that someone is rich when you're watching them participate in wealth porn on a weekly basis than it is to believe that they're rich if you only ever think of them whenever their most recent bankruptcy announcement hits the newspapers. An Audience of One is a refreshingly lucid explainer of how Trump became who he is and how he got to where he is for people like me who missed his mythmaking as it was happening in real time. This book shows how our media shifted away from favoring the least objectionable programming possible towards favoring more confrontational 'entertainments', and then it illustrates why someone like Trump who is willing to play the villain was bound to go far in politics at this particular moment in time. Poniewozik's main insight is that you have to examine Trump as if he was a TV character and not as a human being. And that's a good insight, because he is more of a simulacrum than he is a man. He doesn't seem to have any any real core principles other than to take, take, and keep taking - which is actually a plus in our current context. Consider this: Trump is a plutocrat at a time when the 1% have undue influence in our politics. He's a bloviator at a time when our morally bankrupt cable news channels favor provocation over substance. He's a conflict machine who is constantly creating headlines at a time when everything is so broken that there is no middle ground between being too big to fail and being invisible. In retrospect it is not a surprise that a man who is willing to say or do anything to get what he wants for himself was able to advance to the highest office in the land at this exact moment in time. Audience of One is the autopsy I needed in late 2016 to make sense of what just happened to our country, because it puts everything in perspective and explains why Donald Trump is, in fact, a perfect figurehead for a party that is interested in raw power above everything else. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who still thinks that Donald Trump is basically just a horse who somehow managed to wander into a hospital, because we're never going to be rid of him and his enablers until we all honestly grapple with the factors that lead to this particular bull being unleashed in our national China shop... And that means looking critically not just at Trump, but also at NBC and CNN and Fox News and all the other entities that promoted him and his nonsense for years and years just because they could profit off it, even though they knew that his shtick was poisoning their audiences' hearts and minds. We're not going to dig ourselves out of this hole until we get honest with ourselves about how deep we're in it, and that means treating Trump as a symptom of a disease, not like a random outlier who came from nowhere and the ascended to the highest levels of power for no reason at all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Letitia

    This is actually a rarity in non-fiction books, in that it is one whose importance will grow rather than diminish over time. Most political commentary is relevant for a moment, then becomes a sort of satirical oh yeah, remember when THAT was what we were worried about? This is different. This is an analysis of depth and wisdom that is only going to grow more valuable with age, because it will be a perspective that people who weren't around for the 90s don't have. Those of us paying attention to This is actually a rarity in non-fiction books, in that it is one whose importance will grow rather than diminish over time. Most political commentary is relevant for a moment, then becomes a sort of satirical oh yeah, remember when THAT was what we were worried about? This is different. This is an analysis of depth and wisdom that is only going to grow more valuable with age, because it will be a perspective that people who weren't around for the 90s don't have. Those of us paying attention to television for the past couple of decades will not be incredibly surprised or blown away by what is presented here. We observed it. We lived it. We know, to some extent, what TV has been to us. But there is a generation coming who will not understand that. It's memorialized in this text. I can picture myself teaching American Government in Switzerland 20 years from now and assigning this text. It's not as entertaining as Sarah Kendzior's book, also read this year, but it is better. It's not a hyperbolic or fatalistic, and is sometimes downright clever (I had never heard Milo Yiannapoulos referred to as the bigoted Oscar Wilde but this is how I shall describe him in perpetuity). It does sag in places with quantity of information, and can feel a little repetitive, but overall the point is made and made well, and this is a rare author who is somehow both able to love television while understanding both its transience and sociological import. I enjoyed the wit, I enjoyed the perceptiveness, I enjoyed the incisive detail that illuminates just how and why a blusterous, narcissistic, illusion of a rich playboy could ever become America's president.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sean Farrell

    Whatever you may think of Donald Trump, there's little arguing with the fact that TV played a major role in propelling him into the White House. While he was no stranger to television by then, from the moment he descended the escalator in Trump Tower and announced his candidacy, he received near-constant coverage. And that was before anyone even began taking his chances of winning seriously. In this book, James Poniewozik, the chief television critic for the New York Times, not only shows just h Whatever you may think of Donald Trump, there's little arguing with the fact that TV played a major role in propelling him into the White House. While he was no stranger to television by then, from the moment he descended the escalator in Trump Tower and announced his candidacy, he received near-constant coverage. And that was before anyone even began taking his chances of winning seriously. In this book, James Poniewozik, the chief television critic for the New York Times, not only shows just how well President Trump used TV to keep both himself and his message out there, but also discusses the history of the medium and how the brash, loud, anti-hero-friendly, and increasingly fractured landscape that it has become helped to shape his views and campaign. It's interesting to hear the story of how our popular culture has evolved over the decades via the shows that helped define the different eras, and Mr. Poniewozik makes some compelling arguments for how this evolution has gotten us and Mr. Trump to where we are today. Given his area of expertise, the book does feel a little myopic, and a few repetitive moments also suggest it could have been a bit shorter. Still, while other factors were certainly involved, Audience of One makes a strong case for the outsized role played by our current mass media.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Budman

    Audience of One begins as a parallel history of television and Trump and shows how the parallel lines slowly converged until, in 2016, they merged into one. Poniewozik brilliantly situates the character of “billionaire Donald Trump” in a timeline of pro wrestling, reality shows, and prestige-TV antiheroes. Now, at this point, the last thing anyone needs is another theory of why Trump is who he is. We all know who he is—we see it every day. That’s not this book’s value, though Poniewozik offers pl Audience of One begins as a parallel history of television and Trump and shows how the parallel lines slowly converged until, in 2016, they merged into one. Poniewozik brilliantly situates the character of “billionaire Donald Trump” in a timeline of pro wrestling, reality shows, and prestige-TV antiheroes. Now, at this point, the last thing anyone needs is another theory of why Trump is who he is. We all know who he is—we see it every day. That’s not this book’s value, though Poniewozik offers plenty of witty lines and insights. What I found incredibly useful is the author’s illustration of how modern TV has conditioned millions of viewers to find Trump not only familiar but appealing, an antihero whom they cheer anyway and want to see win. We’ve read any number of articles and books about Trump’s appeal to racists and disaffected white working-class voters, but his true constituency is best understood through the lens of television. The idea of kayfabe—the pro-wrestling acceptance of staged reality—helps clarify Trump fans’ willingness to dismiss his 12,000+ lies as “Fake News”; they, like him, nihilistically view everyone as an insincere performer with no genuine beliefs or feelings, and the only thing that matters is whether one’s team emerges victorious. Nothing in Audience of One, its color and readability notwithstanding, makes the horror of the last four years any easier to take. But for those of us who would never tune in to reality TV, who watched The Sopranos and Mad Men and Breaking Bad with conflicted feelings, the book is extremely helpful in thinking about the people with whom we’re sharing the country. For political junkies, Poniewozik fills in some key gaps that we needed filled.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Ebling

    Really fascinating look at not just 45's psychology, but America's and how TV has shaped them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    vanessa

    DNF @ 31%. I think this would be better suited in long form essay rather than a whole book. It seems a bit rambly so far and I don't have the mental headspace to hear about 45 at the moment. Maybe I'll go back to it sometime in the future.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    “All the theatrical power of TV is invested in making one aging man look desirable, one skinflint look generous, one lucky rich boy look self-made, one checkered business career look flawless, one accumulation of set dressing look like reality.” So there are only two parties that are ever going to get in, in America, the only real difference is that one happens to be marginally less awful than the other and that’s your lot, that’s what passes for democracy over there. There is no doubt that Trump “All the theatrical power of TV is invested in making one aging man look desirable, one skinflint look generous, one lucky rich boy look self-made, one checkered business career look flawless, one accumulation of set dressing look like reality.” So there are only two parties that are ever going to get in, in America, the only real difference is that one happens to be marginally less awful than the other and that’s your lot, that’s what passes for democracy over there. There is no doubt that Trump is a dangerous clown, who embodies the worst excesses of the people who voted him in. But if we look beyond the clichés and actually examine “the other guys” we see that unlike Clinton, Trump did not vote in favour of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Clinton also said back in 2016 “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow—and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will—would that end racism?” (“No!” the audience cries out.) “Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight.” That is a moronic thing to say, but apparently millions of voters in the US are happy with that or pretend that it doesn’t matter. Clinton (like most politicians) pretends to be someone she isn’t. Trump would also struggle to match the misery, pain and suffering that Obama inflicted upon millions of his fellow Americans when he bailed out the banks at the expense of the poorest and neediest in society. Remember how Edward Snowden was criminalised by Obama and the Democrats for exposing the greater criminality of Obama and previous governments illegally spying on their own people?...Is that what passes for "progressive" in the US. Or maybe they mean the increased drone warfare under Obama?... If Clinton had gotten in then America and in particular those smug, elite liberals, would have been patting themselves on the back for being so progressive, and lying to themselves that all was well. It would be enough to fool enough people for another four years. But because Trump is so awful and things are clearly so broken throughout America, there is now a better chance that this will result in some serious self-examination, which could lead to the possibility of greater, meaningful change down the line. Americans need to realise that Trump is not so much an aberration as a natural progression of the way America has been moving for at least four decades. This bloated, egotistic, superficial and ridiculous man is the perfect embodiment of modern America. Anyway rant over and onto the book itself, this is a curious but thoroughly enjoyable book. We get a history of modern American TV alongside the progression of Donald Trump’s career and his path to the presidency. The author seems to have an obsession with a TV appearance Trump made back in 1980, we know because he references it time and time again, as if we are incapable of remembering this treasured fact of his for ourselves. Since the author or the publisher didn’t bother telling you, I will warn you of the various spoilers to many TV series in here. I am not sure that the connection between TV and Trump always works, and it does look suspiciously like two very different essays have been brought grudgingly together to flesh out this book, but that doesn’t mean it isn't enjoyable. This is a really good read and the author makes many great and memorable points about Trump and the TV shows he discusses and spoils the endings too.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Coleen

    I won an advance paperback uncorrected proof of this book. Although there were obviously many references, the Notes at the end of the book had only repeated OOO's for the reader to guess at the references. While I have seen this before in proofs, it makes it difficult and time-consuming to attempt to find where a particular reference might be. That having been written, it takes a lot for me to be so disgusted reading a book that I refuse to continue reading even after a number or attempts. Reali I won an advance paperback uncorrected proof of this book. Although there were obviously many references, the Notes at the end of the book had only repeated OOO's for the reader to guess at the references. While I have seen this before in proofs, it makes it difficult and time-consuming to attempt to find where a particular reference might be. That having been written, it takes a lot for me to be so disgusted reading a book that I refuse to continue reading even after a number or attempts. Realizing that the author is a journalist, I assumed that he was trying to make one or more points in the book. Even journalists must present some level of credibility and the problem that I had was finding any. He could have had an ally in me as to the wastefulness presented by television over the years. And yes, I was one of those who were amazed when the small black and white screen appeared in our home. From there, his criticism of ABC's Disneyland, Davy Crockett, the violence, savagery, and boys' obsession with them, hit me hard because I remembered the show with all the fondness of the little girls in my neighborhood. The book proceeds through many of the shows and commercials over the next 20 to 30 years, implying [or merely presenting the possibility that Donald Trump spent his entire timet watching. I was familiar with many or even most of the shows he presented, but I don't believe that I was overly pre-occupied with television. When the book zeroed in on Trump - the Television Character - I started wondering how biased one could possibly be. Tom Brokaw introduced his Today Show viewers on August 21, 1980 to Donald Trump as being 33 years of age. Brokaw was mistaken [based possibly on an August article that he read prior to the show which had Trump's age at 33]. Trump's birthday is in June, so he had in the interim turned 34. The implication was that he, Trump, had 'shaved a year off [his] age.' Seriously? A year? The absurdity of the detailed footnote 'shaving a year off his age' did not escape me. While I hoped the book would get better, and I made some more attempts, I asked myself why I was wasting my time reading nit-picky distortions such as these. I have read many documents and books with materials with which I disagreed, some vigorously, and usually with the intention and purpose of responding with accuracies and presenting an opposing view. But this book was not worth the effort.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Donald Trump and television came of age together, and in this book, James Poniewozik posits that Donald Trump is, for all intents and purposes, a television character; and that TV and Trump are inseparable in that neither could exist without the other. I admit to a thorough case of Trump news fatigue; to use Mr. Poniewozik's analogy, it's like a horrible TV show that has been blaring at top volume 24/7 for years, and all I want is to turn it off. And yet, in many ways, I can't turn it off, becaus Donald Trump and television came of age together, and in this book, James Poniewozik posits that Donald Trump is, for all intents and purposes, a television character; and that TV and Trump are inseparable in that neither could exist without the other. I admit to a thorough case of Trump news fatigue; to use Mr. Poniewozik's analogy, it's like a horrible TV show that has been blaring at top volume 24/7 for years, and all I want is to turn it off. And yet, in many ways, I can't turn it off, because this is not actually television: this is our world. And that creates the paradox of this book, and my troubles in reviewing it. There is a lot of intellectual interest in naming Trump as a TV character, and it is interesting to read about how his "character" evolved from his early days being interviewed by Tom Brokaw to his cameo onslaught in every TV show of the 90s, to the Apprentice, to a right wing conflict creator; the idea that Trump realized, 40 years ago, that it was more powerful to PLAY a businessman on TV than it was to BE a businessman in real life, is fascinating. And Mr. Poniewozik makes his case with great detail. That part was really interesting. But it becomes troubling and hard to stay in this metaphor because while to Trump this is all a huge game, the consequences are desperately real. There was a fascinating line about the evolution of TV news: that CNN worked to make the news more exciting, and Fox works to make the people more excited. As one of Fox's early consultants noted, "People don't want to be informed, they want to feel informed," and as the author says, what that really means is people just want to feel. And Trump, who can stir up conflict with endless enthusiasm, is perfectly suited to this. To me, the far more troubling and important question is, what can we do about this? If Trump is indeed the apex of reality TV, fueled by conflict and tribalism, than how can we move on from that? How do we reconcile the desperate cost to our society? If we are living in the world that Fox news created, how can we get out of it? That is the piece of this book that feels missing. It raises important questions; but it leaves other questions more in the subtext, and doesn't offer the answers that I, at least, most deeply need.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Telaina

    I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to reading/listening about Donald Trump in my free time, but I am absolutely intrigued by how addicted this president is to television, and how little he actually does except be on television, talk on television, and watch television. This book blew my f*cking mind, as Poniewozik traces Trump throughout his life as a TV character, the anti-hero, and what shows and societal changes (9/11 for one) made electing this anti-hero (allegedly rich, he played ric I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to reading/listening about Donald Trump in my free time, but I am absolutely intrigued by how addicted this president is to television, and how little he actually does except be on television, talk on television, and watch television. This book blew my f*cking mind, as Poniewozik traces Trump throughout his life as a TV character, the anti-hero, and what shows and societal changes (9/11 for one) made electing this anti-hero (allegedly rich, he played rich on TV, he must be rich!) character the United States president. I love television shows and movies, but I primarily get my news from the NPR and reading newspaper articles, and have never watched cable news religiously (more like election nights and debates, that kind of thing) so this was book was a revelation to me. I feel much more informed about our devolution into "everyone lies, there is no truth, everyone is looking out for number one, and by the way, f*ck all of you," which is kind of how I feel every time I talk to a Trump supporter or catch a snippet of Fox News. It is tribalism void of all rational thought and fact, and the red light of the TV camera, blinking us into our annihilation. I'm not sure what the takeaway from this is--will we survive? I don't know. But if this man and his followers' nihilism condemn us all to dying from climate change/the coronavirus/unchecked capitalism/fill in the blank, at least I will die understanding what happened more thoroughly after reading this insightful and in a lot of places funny, analysis.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    I am a big fan of NY Times TV critic James Poniewozik (pronounced pony-whoa-zik, don't know why I struggled with that so long before finally hearing it while he was publicizing this book)... his Twitter feed, particularly in relationship to the current President, has been one of the things that has kept me sane during these insane times. It was a no-brainer that I would get this book, but then I came to the realization that why in the world would I want to spend my leisure time reading about Tru I am a big fan of NY Times TV critic James Poniewozik (pronounced pony-whoa-zik, don't know why I struggled with that so long before finally hearing it while he was publicizing this book)... his Twitter feed, particularly in relationship to the current President, has been one of the things that has kept me sane during these insane times. It was a no-brainer that I would get this book, but then I came to the realization that why in the world would I want to spend my leisure time reading about Trump, who is holding I'm guessing many (most? some?) our minds hostage these days. I finally relented and I was kind of pleased that, as not unexpected, while Trump is certainly central to this book... it is more Donald Trump thru the lens of being pop-culture and television character. Not that this angle makes it any less infuriating, mind-boggling, etc. that this con-man character got elected President of the United States, but it was particularly interesting to me to view it through the rise of the television anti-hero (i.e. Tony Soprano, Walter White) and ubiquity of "reality" television, which is now playing out 24-7 in the "highest" office in the land. While I have largely backed-off on watching reality television of late, I still can't help find myself thinking of Survivor/Big Brother strategies during this current impeachment (Fall 2019) inquiry. I keep on hoping that if (when?) there is a Senate trial that Republican senators will do the great backstab move of showing public support and kissing @ss, but vote the guy off the island. But alas, I have little confidence that will happen -- which is sad given that so many elected officials at this moment in history seem to lack the integrity of a reality show contestant. Again, it's hard for me to recommend anyone voluntarily spending any more time on Trump these days, but if you have a love of pop-culture and particularly television, I'd give this one a chance. I feel a bit guilty saying it was an enjoyable read given that it's about current real-life dystopia.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Corey Quick

    Both a great follow up to Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" and an insightful analysis of Donald Trump, this book brings together and frames the evolution of television and the de-evolution of American politics. A must-read if a person wants to make sense of the chaos today, though Poniewozik might argue that chaos is the point.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nichola Gutgold

    I could not put this book down. James Poniewozik has a command of television, the life, and psyche of Donald Trump and writing! I found myself laughing out loud and agreeing with him as I moved through this book in two sittings. I will recommend this book to my students. What makes the book so compelling is that the history in it is so recent and it rings so true.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gayla Bassham

    Exploration of Trump as a product of television. Most of it did not feel strikingly new or original to me, but I did like the final chapter, in which the author posits Trump as an anti-hero and Hillary as a Skyler White/Carmela Soprano type, to be useful and insightful.

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