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Podcast #181: Kurt Andersen, Fantasyland

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The New York Public Library Podcast features your favorite writers, artists, and thinkers in smart talks and provocative conversations. Listen to some of our most engaging programs, discover new ideas, and celebrate the best of today’s culture.

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Fantasy LandOn today’s episode: Kurt Andersen, the host and co-creator of the Peabody Award–winning public-radio program Studio 360, who was at the Library last week to discuss his new book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, a 500-Year History. Andersen, who also co-founded Spy magazine and is a former editor-in-chief of New York magazine, spoke about it with Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYU professor, philosopher, and author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books.

Fantasyland searches out the roots of our post-truth, alternative facts present in the history of America’s “promiscuous devotion to the untrue.” Andersen argues that Americans have an instinct to believe in make-believe that can be discovered across four centuries of magical thinkers and true believers, hucksters and suckers, who have embedded an appetite for believe-whatever-you-want fantasy into our national DNA. From the Salem witch trials to P. T. Barnum to extraterrestrial conspiracy theories, the book suggests that America’s love of the fantastic has made this country exceptional in a way that has yet to be explored.

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