With the publication of his new novel, Crooked, Austin Grossman gives Richard Nixon the chance to finally set the record straight about his presidency, the Cold War, Watergate, and even our starry-eyed notions about the Founding Fathers. This dazzling confession has been called “captivating” by Entertainment Weekly and “a cantering hodgepodge of American history, black magic and political satire” by the Washington Post. Below is a snippet from Crooked in which Grossman sets us straight about our country’s origin story.
Everyone thinks of the Enlightenment as the end of superstition, the breakdown of religion and magic and the beginning of a new and rational order. The United States is the standard-bearer of that order, a nation founded not on superstitions about bloodlines and myths of swords in stones but on sound civic principles and contracts rationally entered into.
Everyone is wrong. The dawn of modernity wasn’t the end of enchantment, only the beginning of a new and more terrible one. The Plymouth elders made a bargain and brought forth nothing less than a new American sorcery, the casting of a vast invisible spell great enough to bind the darkness of the New World. The settlers lived, and prospered, and over time their work was given the name by which we now know it—the Constitution, the thing that opened the way for the master enchanters of the nineteenth century, Lincoln and Whitman, and for the obscene magical forces that would one day push us all the way to the Pacific.
The Pilgrims’ bargain bought them a continent, and we were the inheritors of a contract bound into our land and our nation and infused again and again into the flesh of its principal executive, the president of the United States.