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Methland by Nick Reding


by Nick Reding

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7146321,721 (3.66)49
The dramatic story of the methamphetamine epidemic of the 1980s as it sweeps the American heartland--a moving, very human account of one community's attempt to battle its way to a brighter future. Crystal meth is widely considered the world's most dangerous drug, but especially so in the small towns of the American heartland. Journalist Reding tells the story of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), which, like thousands of other small towns, 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, 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, tracing the connections between the lives touched by the drug and the global forces that set the stage for the epidemic.--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 30
    No Speed Limit: The Highs and Lows of Meth by Frank Owen (sfarmer76)
    sfarmer76: Reding's book looks at the devastation caused by Meth in a single Iowa town. The book by Frank Owen is a little more far-ranging in scope.
  2. 10
    Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin by Lisa Sweetingham (sfarmer76)
    sfarmer76: Similar in vein to books by Frank Owen, and Nick Reding -- only about Ecstasy instead of Meth.
  3. 21
    Tweak by Nic Sheff (sfarmer76)
    sfarmer76: Fictional account of a meth addict, written by a recovered meth abuser.

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» See also 49 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
This started out being so entertaining (meth-crazed meth cook melts face and fingers!) and interesting (Lori Arnold, sister of comedian Tom Arnold, was a meth drug lord) and then it was like... not anything anymore. I'm like, look, okay I wanted to read a book about meth. METH. and then like about 2/3 of the way though it turns out to be about salt of the earth, midwestern, small town Americans and their (admittedly, tangentially meth-related) drama. I'm like, no I don't care! OMG why am I reading about this guy's relationship with his girlfriend? Goddamn it, they aren't doing meth! I want METH! Come on. I just need a little bump until Breaking Bad comes back on.

Also, the chapter titled "Inland Empire" was confusing. Well, not the content. The title itself was confusing. I supposed it meant the meth empire was an "inland" empire, being that it was all in the midwest and shit. BUT. As a Southern Californian the inland empire is a specific region of California, ie Riverside ect. So when you title a chapter "Inland Empire", and start it off talking about Long Beach and Orange County, I expect you to eventually start talking about... you know, the freakin' inland empire. But instead Reding continued to talk about Long Beach. BEACH. I mean, that's as far from inland as you can possibly get. ( )
  Joanna.Oyzon | Apr 17, 2018 |
Oh little town of Methlehem, how still we see thee lie
Far from deep dreams of blissful sleep killed by the silent sighs
Yet in thy dark streets pineth, that ever thirsting high
The hopes and fears of all thy tears are met in meth tonight.

The hopes the song of methamphetamine brings are supplied by the drug’s concocting with “anhydrous ammonia [that] can burn through human tissue to the bone.” Pursuit of those hopes by meth users is accompanied by “bleeding skin-sores as your pores struggle to open and expel the drug…internal organs shrunken from dehydration; vast areas of the brain that according to CAT scans are completely depleted of neurotransmitters.”

Something is amiss when something like that not only can sell but can become the one thing that matters. Methland: The Life and Death of an American Small Town, by Nick Reding, is the story of that something in the town of Oelwein, Iowa, and elsewhere in America. It is quite a story and is especially so when we listen to residents giving voice to what they have experienced personally or have witnessed in family or friends, and to the confusions and fears they never expected to face. Something not easily borne. ( )
  dypaloh | Aug 20, 2017 |
A sad, moving portrait of people who are destroying not only their own lives, but that of their communities as well. Or if you want to look at it from a glass-half-full perspective, a look at people coping with tragedy and surviving, if not thriving. Or, to take a practical viewpoint, an essay on the drug problem in this country that - smartly - doesn't claim to offer answers. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
An important step in ending the systemic denial regarding the severity of the illegal drug problem in rural America. I appreciate Mr Reding's perseverance in writing a book almost nobody really wanted to read. I just wish his subtitle had been "How Big Ag Helped Turn America's Family Farms Into Crack Dens". ( )
  dele2451 | Jan 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
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For most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small were great in my own time...Human prosperity never abides long in the same place.
- Herodotus, The Histories
To my wife and my son
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As you look down after takeoff from O'Hare International Airport, headed west for San Francisco, California, it's aonly a few minutes before the intricate complexity of Chicago's suburban streets is overcome by the rolling swell of the prairie.
In many ways, it’s easier to get from New York to Los Angeles, or from Dallas to Seattle, than it is to get from anywhere in America to Oelwein, Iowa. Yet much of what there is to know about the United States at the beginning of the new millennium is on display right there, gossiping at the Morning Perk café, waiting for calls at Re/Max Realty, or seeing patients in the low brick building occupied by the Hallberg Family Practice. In their anonymity, and perhaps now more than ever, towns like Oelwein go a long way toward telling us who we are and how we fit into the world.
The idea that a drug could take root in Oelwein, however, was treated as counterintuitive, challenging notions central to the American sense of identity. This single fact would continue to define meth’s seeming distinctiveness among drug epidemics.
“We just didn’t have the money and the staff to help the kids that needed the most of it,” Gilson said, describing the events leading up to asking the police to patrol the halls. “On the one hand, I had an obligation to my teachers, who were frightened of their students. On the other hand, is there anything worse than calling the cops on your own children?” He went on, “We’re in Iowa, for God’s sake. We don’t do that.” And yet, he did.
...all across Iowa, meth had become one of the leading growth sectors of the economy. No legal industry could, like meth, claim 1,000 percent increases in production and sales in the four years between 1998 and 2002, a period in which corn prices remained flat and beef prices actually fell. Farmers, desperate to avoid foreclosure on their land, sold anhydrous ammonia (a common fertilizer) to meth cooks to make the drug. Others simply quit farming and went into the small-scale meth-manufacturing business. Meatpacking workers hoping to stay awake long enough to take on double shifts bought the drug in increasing quantities. As all manner of small legitimate businesses went bankrupt, meth labs opened in their stead.
...a long-term steady loss of tax revenue. In this environment, certain basic civic functions become indulgences. Keeping the streetlights on at night is no longer a given. Trials, which are expensive, are no longer economically feasible. Nor are lengthy incarcerations. As these problems extended throughout the county and state, there was simply no place to put meth addicts. The Fayette County jail was full. The local jail was full. The Iowa state penitentiary in Fort Madison was full.
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Chronicles the author's four year study of meth production and addiction in the small town of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,000).
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