Lost in Summerland: Essays (Paperback)

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If you start a copy of Lost in Summerland and find yourself in a nondescript Fort Lauderdale apartment complex, keep reading, as that story was featured in Best American Travel Writing. And if you want something a little more adventurous, don’t worry, as Swanson will take you to Jacques Fresco’s crumbling Venus utopia, the new age mecca of Lily Dale, the Disaster City training compound, a men’s retreat, a farm for anti-war veterans, and a convention of West Wing fans. Several essays focus on Swanson’s older brother, who was punched into a coma and later developed what appeared to be psychic powers. And whether they are farther afield or centered in Wisconsin (the author grew up in Brookfield and played football at Waukesha’s Catholic Memorial High, the jump-off point for another essay), most offer more than one philosophical detour. I had just been telling a colleague that I so enjoyed writing about new-to-me subcultures; I was almost surprised when the next book I picked up was exactly what I wanted. It was almost like Barrett’s brother was willing me to read this great collection.  Thanks, bruh!

— Daniel Goldin


Barrett Swanson embarks on a personal quest across the United States to uncover what it means to be an American amid the swirl of our post-truth climate in this collection of critically acclaimed essays and reportage.

A trip with his brother to a New York psychic community becomes a rollicking tour through the world of American spiritualism. At a wilderness retreat in Ohio, men seek a cure for toxic masculinity, while in the hinterlands of Wisconsin, antiwar veterans turn to farming when they cannot sustain the heroic myth of service. And when his best friend’s body washes up on the shores of the Mississippi River, he falls into the gullet of true crime discussion boards, exploring the stamina of conspiracy theories along the cankered byways of the Midwest.

In this exhilarating debut, Barrett Swanson introduces us to a new reality. At a moment when grand unifying narratives have splintered into competing storylines, these critically acclaimed essays document the many routes by which people are struggling to find stability in the aftermath of our country’s political and economic collapse, sometimes at dire and disillusioning costs.

About the Author

Barrett Swanson's essays have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Believer, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atavist, among other publications. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and has been anthologized in two editions of The Best American Travel Writing. He was the Halls Emerging Artist Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and he and his wife live in Madison, Wisconsin.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781640095328
ISBN-10: 1640095322
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: July 25th, 2023
Pages: 304
Language: English