Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Best and Worst of "The Worst Hard Time"

Entry by Travis Weller

As I think we all know by now, Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time is
the Read Across Lawrence book for 2013 and the KU Common Book for the
year. So, theoretically 1000s of people read the book this year,
though judging from social media, not quite that many seemed to have
actually read it, let alone finished it. Which is a damn shame,
because this book is great.

Egan presents the Dust Bowl as narrative nonfiction. He mixes the
facts and stats of the horrible, wrenching, world altering drought
that plagued the Plains with personal tales of people who lived
through it, making it even more horrible and wrenching. Some from
interviews, some from diaries and newspaper accounts, the narratives
expose us to the actual experience of what it was like.

He explains how a mixture of exploitative speculators, government
policies, economic pressures, and nature combined to create one of the
worst environmental catastrophes. If it sounds not that fun, you're
right. But that doesn't mean its not worth knowing. Maybe this month,
the PBR bookclub should be renamed The Stiff Drink Book Club.

If you're feeling a little parched after reading The Worst Hard Time,
check out another by Timothy Egan, The Good Rain. Its a collection of
short pieces on the Pacific Northwest, and it's predictably and
wonderfully damp.

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