It's time to take the phrase "gonzo journalism" behind the barn and put a bullet between its dilated pupils. Happily, I'm not calling for the death of gonzo due to a bad book of reportage, but because I've read what might be the best journalism to be released in 2007. Joe Bageant has been writing "dispatches from America's class war" at www.joebageant.com for years, and this is his memoir of what it's like to be a liberal progressive living in the kind of poor Virginia town that helped George W. Bush skate to victory in 2004.

Support The Stranger

Bageant is frequently called a gonzo journalist, and that's a shame; there's none of the hyperbole that jackasses have been dutifully copying since Hunter S. took his first Quaalude. In this case, calling Bageant "gonzo" seems to be almost a diminutive, cordoning his book off to the wacky end of the bookshelf, when it should be required reading for any progressive liberal who wants to create meaningful political change starting next year.

Bageant explains exactly why America's lower class keeps shooting itself in the foot on matters like unions, health care, and education. Most importantly, though, this isn't some New York reporter who stashed himself away into red state America for a year; Bageant actually loves his townsfolk, with all political differences set aside, and he gives them—fellow Americans—the respect that they deserve.