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Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War Hardcover – June 19, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Bageant mixes a reporter's keen analysis, a storyteller's color, and a native son's love of his roots in this absorbing dissection of America's working poor. Returning to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, after 30 years of life among the elite journalistic class, Bageant sought to answer the question of why the working poor vote for Republicans in apparent opposition to their own interests. On a broader level, he examines issues of economic class distinctions as he drills below the middle-class claims of his hometown. The reality is that two of five residents do not have high-school diplomas and virtually everyone over 50 has serious health problems in a town—and nation—with poor and failing schools and health systems. Still clinging to illusions of personal responsibility and the vain hope of someday achieving wealth, Winchester's residents fall deeper into debt, farther behind in ambitions beyond working in the local factory—if they're lucky—and, along with their children, subject to the de facto draft of economic conscription. Through the lives of his friends and family, Bageant explores the importance of hunting, religion, and redneck pride in what he describes as the "American hologram." A wise, tender, and acerbic look at life among America's working poor. Bush, Vanessa
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"Joe Bageant is a brilliant writer. He evokes working class America like no one else. The account of his revisit to his Virginia roots is sobering, poignant, and instructive."
—Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"This book is righteous, self-righteous, exhilarating, and aggravating. By God, it's a raging, hilarious, and profane love song to the great American redneck. As a blue state man with a red state childhood, I have been waiting for this book for years. We ignore its message at our peril."
—Sherman Alexie, author of Reservation Blues

“This fine book sheds a devastating light on Bush & Co.'s notorious 'base,' i.e. America's white working class, whose members have been ravaged by the very party that purports to take their side. Meanwhile, the left has largely turned them out, or even laughed at their predicament. Of their degraded state—and, therefore, ours—Joe Bageant writes like an avenging angel.”
—Mark Crispin Miller, author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Election Reform

"Joe Bageant is the Sartre of Appalachia. His white-hot bourbon-fuelled prose shreds through the lies of our times like a weed-whacker in overdrive. Deer Hunting with Jesus is a deliciously vicious and wickedly funny chronicle of a thinking man's life in God's own backwoods."
—Jeffrey St. Clair, author of Grand Theft Pentagon and co-editor of CounterPunch

“This recounting of lost lives—of white have-nots in one of our most have-not states—has the power of an old-time Scottish Border ballad. It is maddening and provocative that the true believers in 'American exceptionalism' and ersatz machismo side with those stepping all over them. Bagaent's writing is as lyrical as Nelson Algren's, and if there's a semblance of hope, it's that he catches on with new readers thanks to the alternative media.”
—Studs Terkel

"Deer Hunting with Jesus is one of those rare books that is colorful, depressing, hilarious, and biting all at the same time. Joe Bageant has given us a glimpse into the vicious class war that is too often ignored or hidden by those happily perpetrating this war."
—David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover

“Dead serious and damn funny ... Bageant writes with the ghosts of Hunter S. Thompson, Will Rogers, and Frank Zappa kibitzing over his shoulder ... Takes Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas, to the next level. “
Mother Jones

“Bageant mixes a reporter's keen analysis, a storyteller's color, and a native son's love of his roots in this absorbing dissection of America's working poor ... wise, tender, and acerbic."

“Mixing folksy populism with the lacerating fury of Hunter S. Thompson, Bageant’s bitingly funny report can at times make Michael Moore seem tame. While Hunting may leave you heartsick, it’s hard to turn away.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“Informative, infuriating, terrifying, scintillating . . . Imagine a cross between Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Hunter S. Thompson’s booze-and-dope-fueled meditations on Nixon’s political potency, and C. Wright Mills’s understanding of the durability of the power elite.”
The American Prospect

“Hilariously funny, very angry, and somewhat depressing . . . The one book I read in 2007 that I would like all of you to read.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (June 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030733936X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307339362
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (247 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

318 of 334 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on June 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a progressive who grew up in exactly the kind of town the author describes, I found "Deer Hunting With Jesus" to be a chilling and dead on accurate account of modern day America. Unless you've had the experience of seeing the house you grew up in only 20 years ago boarded up and sold at a HUD auction, or turned into a crack house as my best friend from high school's house recently was (we were solidly middle class by small town standards), you really can't appreciate what the author is trying to describe.

That said, this is no biased political rant, as the author's staunch defense of gun ownership demonstrates. It is instead a desperate warning to all Americans just how perilously close we are to seeing our way of life destroyed by our own misguided collective actions. The author believes that progressives and the white working class (rednecks as he calls them) ought to be able to find political common ground based upon economic interest. He's also realistic enough to realize that it is unlikely to happen in time to rescue America from the precipice we seemed so determined to fling ourselves over.

Be forewarned, it is depressing as hell and in no way conforms to the Republican OR Democratic narratives of what America needs to do to preserve our way of life. It is the kind of truth-telling book that could only be written by someone who has seen enough of living on both sides of the red-blue divide to truly understand what ails this country.

In all, a perfect antidote to what the author calls the "American Hologram" of our mass media culture.
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196 of 209 people found the following review helpful By Jason E. Bradfield on June 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a native of Winchester, VA, Bageant's hometown that is also the focus of this book. It was interesting to read about the dark underbelly of the town in which I grew up. My sense is that Bageant's facts are mostly correct, even though his assessment is quite obviously one-sided.

I give this book a solid five stars and highly recommend it to any reader regardless of their politics. It was a very entertaining read and I found it to be more informative about how the working class lives than either "Nickel and Dimed" or "What's the Matter with Kansas?". Those were good books, but they never escape the "outsider" perspective. The authors of most books on working class America are like scientists looking at some bizarre pathogen through a microscope; Bageant doesn't approach working class people as specimens to be studied, he actually sits down and talks (a lot) and drinks (a whole lot) with them.

The reader should keep in mind Bageant's perspective and remember that Winchester is not all bad. I graduated from the city high school (Handley) in 1996 and it seemed like any student who was reasonably intelligent and hard-working had a good future; however, the problem emerges when you look at where students get such habits - usually from peers and family members. That's why Bageant's description of the culture of the poor is so important regardless of whether or not you agree with his politics (I most emphatically do not). Conservatives and libertarians should find this useful because it exposes why some behave so irresponsibly.

This is by far the best political commentary I have read this year. Highly recommended and a quick and easy (but very intelligent and witty) read.
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108 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on June 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This books has moments of sharp-edge humor, but overall it paints a very bleak picture of the working class of our country. Whereas the "average Joe" in his Virginia hometown used to be able to afford his own home and enjoy something akin to the "American dream," Joe Bageant returns 30 years later to find a world bereft of hope...a place populated by folks who relentlessly pursue a dream that they will never see come true.

I find Bageant's points well-taken and convincing, and it did open my eyes up to a few things I had never considered. I recommend it, not for it's sharply humorous thrust, but for the important observations he makes.
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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on July 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Let me begin by saying that, as an escapee in 1974 from Red State Indiana to Bluest of Blue New York City where I discovered my own liberal bona fides, I hope every New Yawker, Bostonian, Connecticut Yankee, San Franciscan, Portlander (OR), and Seattlean reads Joe Bageant's DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS. Along with every East and West Coast Democratic Congressman, Senator, and Presidential aspirant. Why? Understanding a different country within our country, developing a modicum of identification or at least empathy, developing and further promoting national policies to address the societal needs of working class America, and (if for no other reason) increasing the chances of re-establishing and maintaining Democratic control of Congress, the White House, and someday the Supreme Court.

Bageant is not some liberal academician who just helicoptered in Margaret Mead-like for a brief, notebook-in-hand stay with the indigenous peoples of Winchester, Virginia. Rather, DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS describes the author's return to live in his hometown after a thirty-year absence in such far-flung left wing havens as Boulder, CO , Eugene, OR, and the Coeur d'Alene (ID) Indian Reservation. What he discovers is a town far different than the one of his boyhood, a place where "average folks" are uneducated, hopelessly parochial and uninformed, terrified of getting sick, and anesthetized by materialism, religious fundamentalism, and eight hours a day of television. They spend most of their lives resentful of "elites" and the rich, but resigned to their lot, all the while living on an economic precipice.
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