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moving under skies

NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy:  you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com. 

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

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

I got my copy of this from the library and I think some previous patron may have actual cooked meth over the book: it had all manner of gross, weirdly coloured chemical stains throughout. Normally, I would return such a suspicious copy and wait for one to come into my store, but in this case I was hooked after a few pages, before I'd discovered the unfortunate circumstances of my copy. I read this with a keen personal interest: I grew up in a town as direly affected by methamphetamine as the worst in America; at one time the oft-bandied statistic (one I grew to believe in wholeheartedly during a summer job at a law office) was that one in every seven people was addicted to meth. Methland, therefore, had plenty of resonance for me. It was a horrific, grueling read--I'm pretty sure it gave me nightmares--but completely worth it, for I truly feel like I've emerged from the ordeal with a deeper understanding of the very-real epidemic that plagues my hometown (and, indeed, my current city, and thousands of others in middle America). Reding is at his best when profiling the lives of those affected by meth--human dimensions always affect me much more than statistics ever can, and Reding has a remarkably compassionate, brutally factual approach to people on both sides of the law. I did find parts of it rather dry, particularly when he delved into his own family history as a sort of proof or excuse for his interest in the subject. This was a story that needed to be told; I didn't require Reding's unrelated personal dimensions as proof that he had the right to do the telling due to his family's Iowan connections. This quibble aside, I found this to be a gripping, informative read. I would highly recommend it to anyone else who has fraught roots in a troubled town; it's truly given me a new perspective my experiences.