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28 September 2009

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I'm not in disagreement with your assessment of Methland; I think the author does a good job with the "big picture" destruction caused by methamphetamine addiction and manufacture. To add to your review, I'd like to mention that Reding plays fast and loose with concrete facts in the book. A Cedar Rapids, IA, columnist detailed many of them in a review back in July 2009 (which is unfortunately not online otherwise I would link to it); some of the more glaring errors have to do with mistakes in Iowa geography.

Yes -- for instance, Iowa City is not the largest city in Iowa. That's the one I caught, but I would not be surprised if there were more.

To me, the most interesting aspect of the book was that it was trying to blend investigative reporting with a more personal narrative, but the author left out a key detail of that personal narrative until the acknowledgments at the very end of the book. I've been meaning to get back to more book reviewing on my own blog, so I'll save the rest as a motivation to do so there.

Melissa,
Oh NO! I always hate to hear when there are errors in nonfiction books. Although part of me blames our society (more, faster, NOW) and publishing companies more than the author; but that is no excuse. I would imagine that factcheckers and copyeditors were the first to get chucked out the doors in the last downturn, leading to problems like this. Of course the author should get it right, though.

Laura,
Yes, it was rather an odd little book. I flew through it, and found it very interesting, and actually had rather a soft spot for what the author was trying to do. I don't mind the blending of the investigative with the personal at all--witness my love of John Bowe's "Nobodies"--especially when I feel like the author has put in some legwork talking to people (which it seemed to me this guy did). I only get annoyed at the blending of personal + investigative when it is done in a half-ass way, a la Barbara Ehrenreich (in "Nickel and Dimed," which was not a terrible book, but did not deserve to sell as many copies as it did). I'll look forward to your review.

Robert,
I am glad you comment on some of the book's shortcomings. By the time I read the 3rd geographical/factual error (incorrect university information, etc.), I gave up in disgust. I wanted to read on, but I.Could.Not.Do.It.
-- from an (apparently irritable) Iowa native

I "learned" quite a bit about meth and its history from this book. I hope those facts are straight.

Just this in: Laura did review the book; her review is here:
http://www.newrambler.net/lisdom/344

John Hurley, Sr. was working as a butcher at the Stop and Shop in the 50's, when Fred came in one day to buy some meat. Barbara was standing at the counter, and John introduced them, and they've been happily married ever since.

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