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Unwinding "The Unwinding": An Interview With George Packer

Talking with the recipient of the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction about his award-winning book.

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New Yorker staff writer George Packer came through Chicago on his book tour for The Unwinding (which I reviewed for The Airship). We sat down at the International House on the University of Chicago campus, where I first watched three undergraduate boys interview him for a recently launched campus political journal. They asked him a lot of questions about the world itself — politics, history — as if he were a kind of general sage, a wise senator to eager interns. The whole scene struck me as kind of sweet and appropriate, since Packer's hours of interviews with subjects at the heart of deindustrialization in the rust belt, establishment corruption in Washington and the epicenter of the housing crisis in Tampa have made him deeply informed about a quarter-century's political and economic history in the United States. But it also seemed strange to think of Packer as an unmediated window to that history, since the book he just wrote is such an artful figuration, a web-like narrative clotted with research, as interesting and urgent for the way it tells its story as for the story itself.

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