Friday, September 02, 2011

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

I liked this more than I implied in my last post. It’s true what I said, that it isn’t a very good book, but it’s an interesting read. It’s just badly organized, meandering, and ultimately unfulfilling. (What is it about? Methamphetamine abuse, the scourge of the rural Midwestern U.S. Why did I read it? Because my fellow blogger Citizen Reader wrote about it a while ago and her blog post stuck with me. She and I share an interest in reading about issues specific to the Midwest; see her recent post here about Detroit.)

Reding pinballs between the personal and the political as he searches for an overarching theme for this book. Some chapters feature interviews with meth addicts, law enforcement officers, and social workers. Other chapters try to link the rise of meth to the disintegration of the Midwest’s rural economy. The loss of union-wage jobs, the rise of factory farms, and the globalization of the food industry are all factors he cites. A third set of chapters detail the rise of the Mexican cartels that supply most of the meth that is now available in the Midwest. All these chapters are interesting, but the parts are greater than the sum. Reding tries to use meth’s effects on the small town of Oelwein , Iowa, as a unifying theme but he never quite makes it work. It’s like he gathered all these interesting stories, which he tells in a compelling way, but in the end he couldn’t seem to turn the material into a coherent book. Nevertheless, if you like this kind of thing, this is a good effort and worth your time.

(Book 25, 2011)


Shelley said...

Gloria Steinem recently mentioned wearily that the new Playboy TV series was inevitably going to glamorize the situation. A similar thing happens with drug use--it gets glamorized and laughed about on the media. We need more books telling the tawdry truth.

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