NYTimes | In late July, The American Conservative ran an interview with J. D. Vance that drew so much traffic it briefly crippled the central nervous system of the magazine’s website. The interviewer’s last line implored readers to have a look at Mr. Vance’s publishing debut, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” Ever since, his book has hovered at high altitude on Amazon, seldom dipping below No. 10.
After reading “Hillbilly Elegy,” you can easily understand why. This is a historically peculiar election cycle, boisterously disrupted by outsiders, one of whom found the perfect host body in the Republican Party and became its presidential nominee. An investigation of voter estrangement has never felt more urgent, and we’re certainly not getting one from the lacquered chatterers on the boob tube.
Now, along comes Mr. Vance, offering a compassionate, discerning sociological analysis of the white underclass that has helped drive the politics of rebellion, particularly the ascent of Donald J. Trump. Combining thoughtful inquiry with firsthand experience, Mr. Vance has inadvertently provided a civilized reference guide for an uncivilized election, and he’s done so in a vocabulary intelligible to both Democrats and Republicans.
On the checklist of modern privilege, Mr. Vance, 31, has the top four in the bag: He is white, male, straight and Protestant.