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  • Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs

  • A Journey Through the Deep State
  • Written by: Kerry Howley
  • Narrated by: Nikki Massoud
  • Length: 7 hrs

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Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs

Written by: Kerry Howley
Narrated by: Nikki Massoud
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Publisher's Summary


“Riveting and darkly funny and in all senses of the word, unclassifiable.” –
The New York Times

A wild, humane, and hilarious meditation on post-privacy America—from the acclaimed author of

Who are you? You are data about data. You are a map of connections—a culmination of everything you have ever posted, searched, emailed, liked, and followed. In this groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction, Kerry Howley investigates the curious implications of living in the age of the indelible. Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs tells the true story of intelligence specialist Reality Winner, a lone young woman who stuffs a state secret under her skirt and trusts the wrong people to help. After printing five pages of dangerous information she was never supposed to see, Winner finds herself at the mercy of forces more invasive than she could have possibly imagined.

Following Winner’s unlikely journey from rural Texas to a federal courtroom, Howley maps a hidden world, drawing in John Walker Lindh, Lady Gaga, Edward Snowden, a rescue dog named Outlaw Babyface Nelson, and a mother who will do whatever it takes to get her daughter out of jail. Howley’s subjects face a challenge new to history: they are imprisoned by their past selves, trapped for as long as the Internet endures. A soap opera set in the deep state, Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs is a free fall into a world where everything is recorded and nothing is sacred, from a singular writer unafraid to ask essential questions about the strangeness of modern life.

©2023 Kerry Howley (P)2023 Random House Audio

What the critics say

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair

“An odyssey through the post-9/11 American security state… Howley’s prose reminded me of Don DeLillo’s, not just in its preternatural attunement to invisible currents of feeling which course between varied pockets of the globalized American project, but also in the feeling that she’d taken her experience of the world and melted it down into a weapon meant to puncture our hardened habits of perception… Bottoms Up restores the world to something akin to its original strangeness. It’s a daring approach, and an invaluable one: seeing the world anew makes it feel, in some small way, up for grabs, and this feeling is a precondition for real thought.”Peter C. Baker, The New Yorker

“Riveting and darkly funny and, in all senses of the word, unclassifiable. Howley writes about privacy and its absence; about hiding and leaking and secrets and betrayal. But she also writes about the strange experience of living, and how it gets flattened and codified into data that can be turned into portraits of static, permanent beings—creatures who would be unrecognizable to ourselves… The arc of Howley’s extraordinary book feels both startling and inevitable; of course a journey through the deep state would send her down the rabbit hole… We become ourselves by shedding our past selves—but now those discarded selves are recorded somewhere, potentially living longer than we do. In her acknowledgments, Howley ends with a note to her children that could serve as a blessing for us all: ‘May you be only as remembered as you wish.’”Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

"When whistleblower Reality Winner was arrested in 2017 and later pleaded guilty to sending classified documents to The Intercept, it was a story with huge relevance to the group of activists and journalists with interests in the security state and its overreaches, but it didn’t easily translate to the broader public... Kerry Howley draws an intimate portrait of the woman, her world, and her motivations with literary flair and a wry voice.... Most attempts to understand the war on terror leave a reader with more questions and moral confusion than they began with. In approaching that lack of stability with intellect and keen aesthetics, Howley’s book leaves a reader immeasurably enriched."—Vanity Fair

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