29 April 2013

Review of Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog

The Power of the DogThe Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a long book, but the length (as Jane Smiley writes about in 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel) is a promise, not a threat.

The action is quick, the tension is high and the conflict is believable. There are neither purely good guys, nor completely evil bad guys. It seems like Winslow covered everything from family to feigned friendship, from faith to agnosticism, from obsession to oppression.

The War on Drugs plays a major role in this novel, as does the U.S.'s use of that travesty and failure to maintain a large distance from Communist countries: in other words, to keep them from moving in right next door.

Winslow's characters are both likeable and not. Some, I wanted to side with initially, only to rethink my loyalty later. It really is a great ride through the psychology of trying to reach a goal that may be, when all is said and done, unobtainable: e.g. the War on Drugs. It's like a war against dirt, it is never-ending and demands constant vigilance (which, if truth be told, is a waste of time, i.e. dirt will win). I'm not making a judgment on drugs (or on dirt, for that matter), but on the ways in which the U.S. has "tried" to stop the flow of those drugs. Billions of dollars have been spent, and many of those billions have ended up in the pockets of the heads of the very drug cartels that were the targets of this fiasco called a war.

Winslow does an excellent job of presenting the history necessary to tell his story without dragging in so much as to make it a boring read. He uses what is necessary, leaves out what isn't.

At the very least, this novel has made me think about the U.S. relations with our neighbors to the south in North, Central and South America. Was the War on Drugs really just a way for the U.S. to keep Communists from moving in right next door? Did the U.S. supply anti-communist fighters, who also happened to be part of the huge flow of drugs into and money out of the U.S.? Will you read this book and wrestle with your own questions about these issues?

That's all I can suggest: read it.

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The Power of the Dog (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

23 April 2013

Review of The William Faulkner Audio Collection

The William Faulkner Audio CollectionThe William Faulkner Audio Collection by William Faulkner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent readings of great stories. Just wanted to fill in some of the gaps in my Faulkner reading. Spotted Horses was the longest story here, and it was not disappointing. As it usually does, "A Rose for Emily" gave me the creeps. What a fantastic, creepy, weird story.

Faulkner is one of my favorite writers; that's not to say that I always like his content or his word choice, but that's neither here nor there, in my opinion. The man could write, stringing sentences together out of that not long ago time when things were not as pretty as they are now, making those sentences sing with repetition and other strategically placed rhetorical devices, causing those words to sing together in a wonderful dark beautiful sad Southern symphony.

Or something. If you like Faulkner, I recommend this audio collection, narrated by Debra Winger (remember her?), Keith Carradine, and Arliss Howard.

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