Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

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9781596916500: Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town
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The dramatic story of the methamphetamine epidemic as it sweeps the American heartland a timely, moving, very human account of one community s attempt to battle its way to a brighter future.

Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells the story of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), which, like thousands of other small towns across the country, has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people. As if this weren t enough to deal with, an incredibly cheap, longlasting, and highly addictive drug has rolled into town.

Over a period of four years, journalist Nick Reding brings us into the heart of Oelwein through a cast of intimately drawn characters, including: Clay Hallburg, the town doctor, who fights meth even as he struggles with his own alcoholism; Nathan Lein, the town prosecutor, whose caseload is filled almost exclusively with meth-related crime; and Jeff Rohrick, a meth addict, still trying to kick the habit after twenty years. Tracing the connections between the lives touched by the drug and the global forces that set the stage for the epidemic, Methland offers a vital and unique perspective on a pressing contemporary tragedy.

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About the Author:

Nick Reding is the author of The Last Cowboys at the End of the World, and his writing has appeared in Outside, Food and Wine, and Harper's. Born in St. Louis, he decided to move back to his hometown in the course of reporting this book.

From The Washington Post:

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin created a small scandal when she told a North Carolina crowd, "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America." Apart from whatever political hay the left made of rhetoric elevating small-town Americans over their more urban counterparts, Palin's comments tapped into a central myth of our national culture -- that there is something fundamentally undiluted and authentic about small towns that is implicitly absent from larger cities. Small-town residents, the story goes, are honest, hard-working, religiously observant and somehow just more American than the rest of America.

In his persuasive new book, Methland, journalist Nick Reding reveals the fallacies of this myth by showing how, over the past three decades, small-town America has been blighted by methamphetamine, which has taken root in--and taken hold of--its soul. Over four years, Reding studied meth production and addiction in Oelwein, Iowa, a rural community about 300 miles from Chicago. With a population of just over 6,000, Oelwein serves as a case study of the problems many small towns face today. Once a vibrant farming community where union work and small businesses were plentiful, Oelwein is now struggling through a transition to agribusiness and low-wage employment or, alternatively, unemployment. These conditions, Reding shows, have made the town susceptible to methamphetamine.

There is no more horrifying example of the drug's ravages than Roland Jarvis, who began using meth as a way to keep up his energy through double shifts at a local meat-processing plant. Apparently doing so was nothing unusual, and until the early 1980's, an Oelwein physician would routinely prescribe methamphetamines for fatigued workers. When the plant where Jarvis worked was de-unionized and his wages slashed by two-thirds, Jarvis went from an occasional meth user to a habitual user and then a manufacturer. One night, in a fit of drug-induced paranoia, he attempted, disastrously, to dispose of his cooking chemicals. In the ensuing fire, he was so horribly burned that paramedics could only watch while the flesh literally melted from his body and Jarvis begged the police to kill him. Reding's description of Jarvis now, using his fingerless hands to lift a meth pipe to his noseless face, is among the most haunting images in the book.

Reding tracks the decline--and, ultimately, the limited resurgence--of Oelwein, while also examining the larger forces that have contributed to its problems. He links meth to the gathering power of unregulated capitalism beginning in the 1980's. It was then, he argues, that one-time union employees earning good wages and protected by solid benefits, like Roland Jarvis, began to see their earnings cut and their benefits disappear. Undocumented migrants began taking jobs at extraordinarily low wages, thereby depressing the cost of labor. Meth, with its opportunity for quick profit and its power to make the most abject and despondent person feel suddenly alive and vibrant, found fertile ground. Meanwhile, in Washington, pharmaceutical lobbyists were working hard to keep DEA agents from attempting to limit access to the raw ingredients; ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, meth's core precursors, were simply too vital to the lucrative allergy-remedy market. Though he avoids making the argument in such stark terms, Reding positions the meth epidemic as the triumph of profits over the safety and prosperity of America's small-town inhabitants.

But meth hasn't always been seen as a menace. In fact, Reding explains, "methamphetamine was once heralded as the drug that would end the need for all others." First developed by a Japanese chemist at the end of the 19th century, meth was, by the middle of the 20th century, embraced by many in government and industry as a wonder drug perfect for, among other things, keeping up soldier morale. Several governments, including the United States, used it on their troops in World War II, despite studies showing that it produced "psychotic" and "anti-social" behaviors including "increased libido, sexual aggression, violence, hallucinations, dementia, bodily shaking, hyperthermia, sadomasochism, inability to orgasm, Satanic thoughts, general immorality, and chronic insomnia." Nonetheless (and overlooking the vexing question of how it's possible to measure satanic thoughts), meth continued to gain popularity, largely because of its ability to make people "feel good"--and industrious. "It's one thing for a drug to be associated with sloth, like heroin," Reding writes, "but it's wholly another when a formerly legal and accepted narcotic exists in a one-to-one ratio with the defining ideal of American culture."

Among the biggest culprits in the spread of the meth epidemic, Reding argues, are the media, which, he says, have gone from obliviousness to obsession to a premature declaration of the end of the meth problem, and finally the pronouncement that there never was a meth problem in the first place. "Meth just wasn't as interesting to report on once it could no longer be cast as a fundamentally American morality play," Reding argues. "In many cases, the postmortem became a witch hunt, as bloggers and newspaper columnists called into question whether the meth epidemic had ever existed in the first place." Methland makes the case that small-town America is perhaps not the moral and hard-working place of the public imagination, but it also argues that big-city ignorance --fueled by the media--toward small-town decay is both dangerous and appalling. Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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Book Description Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, United States, 2009. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland is the story of the drug as it infiltrates the community of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), a once-thriving farming and railroad community. Tracing the connections between the lives touched by meth and the global forces that have set the stage for the epidemic, Methland offers a vital and unique perspective on a pressing contemporary tragedy. Oelwein, Iowa is like thousand of other small towns across the county. It has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy and an out-migration of people. If this wasn't enough to deal with, an incredibly cheap, long-lasting, and highly addictive drug has come to town, touching virtually everyone's lives. Journalist Nick Reding reported this story over a period of four years, and he brings us into the heart of the town through an ensemble cast of intimately drawn characters, including: Clay Hallburg, the town doctor, who fights meth even as he struggles with his own alcoholism; Nathan Lein, the town prosecutor, whose case load is filled almost exclusively with meth-related crime, and Jeff Rohrick, who is still trying to kick a meth habit after four years. Methland is a portrait of a community under siege, of the lives the drug has devastated, and of the heroes who continue to fight the war. It will appeal to readers of David Sheff's bestselling Beautiful Boy, and serve as inspiration for those who believe in the power of everyday people to change their world for the better. Seller Inventory # AAS9781596916500

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Book Description Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, United States, 2009. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland is the story of the drug as it infiltrates the community of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), a once-thriving farming and railroad community. Tracing the connections between the lives touched by meth and the global forces that have set the stage for the epidemic, Methland offers a vital and unique perspective on a pressing contemporary tragedy. Oelwein, Iowa is like thousand of other small towns across the county. It has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy and an out-migration of people. If this wasn't enough to deal with, an incredibly cheap, long-lasting, and highly addictive drug has come to town, touching virtually everyone's lives. Journalist Nick Reding reported this story over a period of four years, and he brings us into the heart of the town through an ensemble cast of intimately drawn characters, including: Clay Hallburg, the town doctor, who fights meth even as he struggles with his own alcoholism; Nathan Lein, the town prosecutor, whose case load is filled almost exclusively with meth-related crime, and Jeff Rohrick, who is still trying to kick a meth habit after four years. Methland is a portrait of a community under siege, of the lives the drug has devastated, and of the heroes who continue to fight the war. It will appeal to readers of David Sheff's bestselling Beautiful Boy, and serve as inspiration for those who believe in the power of everyday people to change their world for the better. Seller Inventory # AAS9781596916500

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