Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State

Pre-Order   Ships Mar 21, 2023

Product Details

$28.00  $26.04
Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date
5.83 X 8.51 X 1.1 inches | 0.94 pounds

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About the Author

KERRY HOWLEY is a feature writer at New York magazine and the author of Thrown, a New York Times Editors' Choice and pick for best-of-the-year lists in Time, Salon, Slate, and many other venues. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Granta, Best American Sportswriting, The New York Times Magazine, and Harper's. A Lannan Foundation Fellow, she holds an MFA from the University of Iowa, where she was a professor at the celebrated Nonfiction Writing Program until joining New York. She lives in Los Angeles.


"Kerry Howley been scary good at making art. But this one here, it's a gut check, chin check, pancreas check for writers and humans. How the f**k did you make this?"
--Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

"A taut and riveting tour behind the curtain of an America that is unknown to us, but in which we all live. Kerry Howley is an astute, funny, contemplative, and relentless guide whose eye misses nothing. I would follow her anywhere."
--Melissa Febos, bestselling author of Girlhood and Body Work

"I love this book because I can't quite describe what it is. It bristles with the precise kind of strangeness that we live in but cannot name. Howley is one of the very best nonfiction writers working today and she is in peak form here. I'm jealous of her prose."
--Chris Hayes, bestselling author of A Colony in a Nation

"This is a work of profound moral and political importance, and an exhilarating evolution of an art form by one of our great contemporary writers. Howley meditates on freedom, privacy, storytelling, and the state, carefully following the threads of the War on Terror to the political upheavals of the present day. Not only is Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs a necessary expansion and corrective to established narratives of decades of American overreach and cruelty, it is a beautiful, stylish, nuanced, and empathetic work of art, unlike any I've read before."
--Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

"Kerry Howley sees it all. You may want to believe that the digital age has remade surveillance into a distant abstraction--all-seeing but also objective, supra-human, impersonal. Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs is an unsparing map of that delusion, and of the sticky human spiderweb -- nodes and eyeballs, informants, and subjects -- in which we all now live, complicitly. A generational subject now has its generational masterwork."
--David Wallace-Wells, bestselling author of The Uninhabitable Earth

"Bottoms Up And The Devil Laughs is the book Joan Didion would have produced if Didion chose to delve into the motivations, circumstances, passions, absurdities and persecutions of 'national security' whistleblowers and other people on the margins of the War on Terror. Howley chronicles a widespread, insidious social derangement, but never for a moment treats her characters as anything other than fully realized human beings... Still, the heart of the book is the story of Reality Winner, and I doubt anyone will ever tell it better than Howley does."
--Spencer Ackerman, authorof Reign of Terror

"In this fascinating dispatch from the height of the surveillance age, Howley (Thrown) expands on her New York magazine profile of Reality Winner, the intelligence specialist who leaked classified reports on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election... Based on extensive interviews with Winner, her family, and her friends, and enriched by incisive character sketches of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other whistleblowers, Howley reveals how the gravest threat to the national security state has become 'ideological, morally serious twentysomethings finding themselves as they sifted through secrets their younger selves had promised to keep.' Witty, humane, and fiercely intelligent, this is a striking critique of a world intent on 'burying itself' in information."
--Publishers Weekly, starred

"Howley manages to push beyond partisan hack work to lay bare the flaws or biases in everyone's read on Reality [Winner]--be it the right or left, the Intercept or NSA, Winner's family, her lawyers, or her prosecutors. She illustrates the ways in which the raw data of someone's life can be culled into a story they didn't know they had told... Howley's capacity for incisive empathy extends to those whom most would dismiss as kooks. Just as narrators who purport to be reliable can be wrong, she suggests, those whom we write off as unreliable can, on some level, be right."
--Tarpley Hitt, BookForum

"A provocative look at the culture of intelligence and its subversions."

"In this wide-ranging, often chilling survey, Howley meditates on the ways in which data collected by U.S. government agencies can be used to invade and destroy the lives of citizens... Howley makes a convincing argument that Winner was convicted less for the leak than for misleading evidence from old social media posts and personal texts... and suggests that we all might be subject to danger from the same sort of posts, preserved without our knowledge in government databases."