Monday, July 6, 2009

Methland reviewed in NYT

The cover story for the Book Review section of the New York Times on Sunday featured Nick Reding's book Methland, reviewed by Walter Kirn. Kirn describes the book in a most compelling way as "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." Oelwein's population is 6,692.

This passage again echoes the global-local link in Methland, which Kirn cals a "ballad of cultural invisibility," while also highlighting what Kirn sees as Reding's movitation:
Reding, a loyal native of the Midwest who’s frankly sentimental about its past and starkly lucid about its likely future, invites his rushing readers to gaze down at the “flyover country” of America and see not a grid of farms and county roads but a patchwork of failed institutions and aspirations. There’s the hospital, groaning under a load of uninsured patients with ­minimum-wage jobs and maxed-out household budgets. There’s the school, imperiled by dwindling tax receipts and students with ever more grown-up problems.
The link to manufacturing is especially interesting in light of an empirical study presented at the recent Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association (LSA). Professors Ralph Weisheit and Ed Wells reported there on their study of predictors of where meth labs are located. One of few statistically significant predictors they identified was the presence of a manufacturing facility in the vicinity. Those participating in the LSA panel speculated that the repetitive motion involved in manufacturing was consistent with meth's effects on the body.

So, does meth make factory line workers more competitive in this age of global competition? That certainly seems consistent with Reding's apparent thesis--that the meth phenomenon, even in small town America--is by no means strictly local in cause or effect.

My own recent article on drug abuse in rural locales is here.

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