In 1973, aged twenty-two, Timothy O'Grady left America for Europe. He had grown up through the time of moonshots and protest marches, new music and unprecedented economic expansion and of hopes for a new society, a new democracy and a new kind of man.
For the next thirty years he lived in and wrote about Europe. As he did, the American counter-culture crashed, Ronald Reagan came and went, wars were declared and the country was attacked by air. Much of the world began to look at America in a new way, wondering what had happened to it and where it was going. Among them was Timothy O'Grady, and he decided to go back and investigate.
Following in the footsteps of such Europeans as de Tocqueville, Dickens and Simone de Beauvoir, and such Americans as Henry Miller, Kerouac, Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie, he went out onto the American road, travelling over fifteen thousand miles through thirty-five states. He met academics, the homeless, war veterans, political activists, New Orleans rappers, billionaires, novelists and a Ku Klux Klansman. A Yale legal historian told him why there are a million lawyers in America, a Chicago broker how executive pay is set and how the lobbying system works in Washington, and a Salvadorean gang member how life is on the streets of East Los Angeles. In every bar he stopped in, it seemed, there was a story of American life to be heard.
Using history, memoir, state-of-the-nation analysis and a novelist's skill at evoking places and people, Divine Magnetic Lands presents a picture of America as it evolved and how it is at the beginning of the twenty-first century.