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An Evening with George Packer – Last Best Hope
September 29, 2022, 7:00 pm-8:30 pmFree
In the year 2020, Americans suffered a global pandemic, polarizing protests and yet another tumultuous election. In his book Last Best Hope, selected as one of the New York Times’ 100 notable books of the year, George Packer traces the shocks back to their sources. He explores the four narratives that now dominate American life: Free America, which imagines a nation of separate individuals and serves the interests of corporations and the wealthy; Smart America, the world view of Silicon Valley and the professional elite; Real America, the white Christian nationalism of the heartland; and Just America, which sees citizens as members of identity groups that inflict or suffer oppression. In lively and biting prose, Packer shows that none of these narratives can sustain a democracy. To point a more hopeful way forward, he looks for a common American identity and finds it in the passion for equality – the “hidden code” – that Americans of diverse persuasions have held for centuries. Last Best Hope is a stirring, vital and ultimately hopeful account of the crises we’ve endured and the opportunities that await us on the other side, should we be so willing to explore them.
In his 2016 book The Unwinding, a National Book Award Winner, Packer explored the rise of populism, institutional collapse, and the unraveling of the American Dream – themes especially relevant in the wake of Trump’s election. However, the book, called a “professional work of journalism that also happens to be more intimate and textured – and certainly more ambitious – than most contemporary works of U.S. fiction dare to be” (The Los Angeles Times), has also stood the test of time. In 2019, The Unwinding was named one of the “Top 50 Nonfiction Titles of the Past 25 Years” by Slate. Packer’s recent book, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century offered a vivid saga of the ambition, idealism, and hubris of Richard Holbrooke, one of the most legendary and complicated figures in recent American history. The Times wrote “Our Man not only revitalizes but in some ways reinvents the art of journalistic biography.”
Packer is the 2019 recipient of the Hitchens Prize; given in memory of the late Christopher Hitchens to a journalist or author who demostrates a deep commitment to the pursuit of truth and free expression, without concern for professional or personal consequences. He has published four other works of non-fiction: The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq; Interesting Times: Writing from a Turbulent Decade; Blood of the Librerals; and The Village of Waiting. He is also the author of two novels, The Half Man and Central Square, and a play, Betrayed. Packer is the editor of The Fight Is for Democracy: Winning the War of Ideas in America and the World, and of a two-volume edition of George Orwell’s Essays. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.
Free and open to the public.