Essential Reading: The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War by Jeff Sharlet

Read this book. Highly recommended. 

That’s the summary and the sum. 

I’m a big admirer of Jeff Sharlet. Have been for awhile. That admiration deepened with his latest book The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War. (That’s not an affiliate link if you’re wondering.) 


Sharlet likes to get right into the middle and the depths of the topics he’s exploring. He certainly does here as he walks the walk and talks the talk with a number of folks in the MAGA world seeking to understand just how close the embers of their smoldering hatred is to igniting. 

Here’s a quote from the blurb that comes close to doing this book justice:

Exploring a geography of grief and uncertainty in the midst of plague and rising fascism, The Undertow is a necessary reckoning with our precarious present that brings to light a decade of American failures as well as a vision for American possibility.

Make no mistake. While Sharlet’s style makes for more than engaging reading the subject matter is not easy to swallow. But it’s a medicine that I think we all need to take if we want to understand what’s afflicting our national psyche in this era beyond the media moments both social and otherwise.

As someone who thinks we’re already in the early stages of this country’s next Civil War I would argue the word “slow” in the title might have more aptly applied 7-10 years ago. That said, the stories and moments Sharlet relates leave no doubt that the divisions we face are so deep that the chances to bridge them are few and far between and perhaps already out of reach.

Again, I highly recommend the book as I do the rest of Sharlet’s work. If you haven’t seen The Family on Netflix. I’d encourage you to check that out as well as Sharlet’s other work.  

Author: Warner Crocker

I stumble through life as a theatre director and playwright as well as a gadget geek...commenting along the way. Every day I learn something new is a good day, so I share what I find exciting, new, stupid and often worthwhile.

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