read: 9 February 2004
This book goes into the category of "magazine articles that became books". My general review if such books is that I bet the articles were more interesting and filled with less filler to get up to book-length page counts. Schlosser is a methodical researcher and an ept storyteller, relating three sections of the US’s underground economy to us and sharing some stories of how it goes badly. However, he is only that. I didn’t think I would find a book about sex and drugs boring, but I did. Not badly boring, but a bit on the dry side. And, I think this is Schlosser’s point -- you take these tittilating parts of the black market economy and reduce them to their gritty financial realities [which Schlosser quite interestingly relates] and it’s just about who makes money how.
Schlosser tells us about a porn magnate gone bad who is relentlessly tracked by the FBI, a guy who was a middleman in a drug bust who goes to jail for decades, and a strawberry farmer and his migrant workers. Each of these people tries to run a profit doing something that is illegal in one sense, but totally normal in another. This is the line that Schlosser treads on -- we all know that sex and drugs are part of most American’s realities [otherwise, at some base level, there wouldn’t be any more Americans] and yet most of these economies flourish way underground. And a lot of American legal time is spent trying to eradicate their very existence, unsucessfully. This is more true for drugs now and it was more true for sex in the seventies, and it’s getting more and less true for migrant workers depending on who is in office. Schlosser sounds like the sane guy, the objective narrator who sees the foaming-at-the-mouth crew for what they are and yet you get the feeling that it’s the tawdriness of some of these topics that interests him as well as the newsworthiness, little throwaway lines here and there imply this. And so, if he’s actually interested in these subjects as a person and not just as a reporter, I wish he’d made them more interesting. Schlosser is a very good writer, and an even better researcher, I just wish he put more of his soul into books like this.
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