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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Methland: Social Dementia is Coming for You

Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of “Methland,” Nick Reding’s unnerving investigative account of two gruesome years in the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself, in forces almost too great to comprehend and too pitiless to bear.

The ravages of meth, or “crank,” on Oelwein and countless forsaken locales much like it are shown to be merely superficial symptoms of a vaster social dementia caused by, among other things, the iron dominion of corporate agriculture and the slow melting of villages and families into the worldwide financial stew.

The book, wrought from old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting of a type that’s disappearing faster than nonfranchised lunch counters on Main Street, isn’t chiefly a tale of drugs and crime, of dysfunction and despair, but a recession-era tragedy scaled for an “Our Town,” Thornton Wilder stage and seemingly based on a script by William S. Burroughs. The madness stalking tiny, defenseless Oelwein may eventually come for all of us, we learn, and once again, as happens in America whenever our collective attention wanders from the gray struggles of the little guy to the purple capers of the big wheels, attention must be paid. Right now. Or else.

link: Book Review - 'Methland - The Death and Life of an American Small Town,' by Nick Reding - Review -


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