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An Evening with James Poniewozik

An incisive cultural history that captures a fractious nation through the prism of television and the rattled mind of a celebrity president.

This September, the Midtown Scholar Bookstore is pleased to welcome Chief Television Critic of the New York Times James Poniewozik to Harrisburg as he presents his new book, Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America. Poniewozik will be interviewed on-stage by Penn Live's Cate Barron. This event is free and open to the public.


About the Book:

Television has entertained America, television has ensorcelled America, and with the election of Donald J. Trump, television has conquered America. In Audience of OneNew York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik traces the history of TV and mass media from the Reagan era to today, explaining how a volcanic, camera-hogging antihero merged with America’s most powerful medium to become our forty-fifth president.

In the tradition of Neil Postman’s masterpiece Amusing Ourselves to DeathAudience of One shows how American media have shaped American society and politics, by interweaving two crucial stories. The first story follows the evolution of television from the three-network era of the 20th century, which joined millions of Americans in a shared monoculture, into today’s zillion-channel, Internet-atomized universe, which sliced and diced them into fractious, alienated subcultures. The second story is a cultural critique of Donald Trump, the chameleonic celebrity who courted fame, achieved a mind-meld with the media beast, and rode it to ultimate power.

Braiding together these disparate threads, Poniewozik combines a cultural history of modern America with a revelatory portrait of the most public American who has ever lived. Reaching back to the 1940s, when Trump and commercial television were born, Poniewozik illustrates how Donald became “a character that wrote itself, a brand mascot that jumped off the cereal box and entered the world, a simulacrum that replaced the thing it represented.” Viscerally attuned to the media, Trump shape-shifted into a boastful tabloid playboy in the 1980s; a self-parodic sitcom fixture in the 1990s; a reality-TV “You’re Fired” machine in the 2000s; and finally, the biggest role of his career, a Fox News–obsessed, Twitter-mad, culture-warring demagogue in the White House.

Poniewozik deconstructs the chaotic Age of Trump as the 24-hour TV production that it is, decoding an era when politics has become pop culture, and vice versa. Trenchant and often slyly hilarious, Audience of One is a penetrating and sobering review of the raucous, raging, farcical reality show―performed for the benefit of an insomniac, cable-news-junkie “audience of one”―that we all came to live in, whether we liked it or not.

About the Author:

James Poniewozik has been the chief television critic of the New York Times since 2015. He was previously the television and media critic for Time magazine and media columnist for Salon. He lives in Brooklyn.

About the Interviewer:

Cate Barron is a recognized leader in Pennsylvania journalism. As VP of Content for the Patriot-News and PennLive.com, she led the challenging transition to digital that included converting the daily paper to thrice weekly. Since then, PennLive has become one of the largest news and information websites in the state, with more than 7 million monthly unique visitors. During her 7-year tenure as Editor, the newsroom has continued to be recognized for outstanding journalism, winning Newspaper of the Year and Keystone Sweepstakes awards, as well as national honors. She and her husband live in Camp Hill.

Earlier Event: September 13
Nathaniel Gadsden's Spoken Word Cafe
Later Event: September 15
Midtown Writers Group