From Contemporary Nomad (by David Liss)

I am heading out for a week of family vacation, but I leave you all with a review I have out this weekend in The Washington Post.  The book, Methland by Nick Reding, is pretty terrific.

Methland is a social history of methamphetamine in American culture, but Reding looks at this history through the lens of one small rural town: Oelwein, Iowa.  There are some amazing anecdotes here, my personal favorite being the story of how, while Reding is hanging out in a bar popular with the meth set, this couple walks in, obviously high.  The guy goes to the bar, and the girl goes over to play the Keno machine.  Within seconds, the guy is accusing Reding of sleeping with his girlfriend – not in some abstract way, but at that very moment.  He believes the two of them are having sex, right there in front of him, and he seems genuinely hurt by this betrayal.  Then there is the story of the guy who, high on meth, sets his mother’s house on fire, but continues to go in and out of the burning building.  By the time the paramedics show up, the skin is literally melting off his body, and he is begging the cops to kill him.  It’s harrowing stuff.

The book is a fast and furious read, but it is also a compelling economic analysis of how meth gained ground in American society.  Reding has a light touch, and he never hammers the reader with his politics, but it is clear he links the depth and breadth of meth in America to the concentration of wealth and the decline of social services beginning in the 1980s.  It’s kind of hard to argue that he’s wrong.

Dig it.


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