It seems important to mention one's "creds" in writing reviews of Stephen King's "Guns" so I will start with mine: I served in the US Army, and was honorably discharged as a SGT/E-5. I qualified Expert with an M16 (the civilian equivalent is an AR15), and I'm still proud of that.
I also have a copy of "Rage", in the compilation of "The Bachman Books" that I purchased the year it was published, 1985. I remember reading "The Bachan Books" the same week I purchased it. I loved "The Running Man" and liked "Roadwork", and while the plot of "Rage" was intriguing, the writing was so sophomoric, it was painful. I found out later King wrote "Rage" while he was in high school, so there was an explanation. I read "Rage" once again, in 1996, when I heard Michael Carneal shot classmates in West Paducah, Kentucky. It sounded so much like the story I'd read 11 years earlier, I wanted to make sure I wasn't imagining the similarity. I wasn't.
King's essay "Guns" starts with a scathing social commentary, "That's How it Shakes Out." It doesn't matter if the first station you've got programmed into your remote is FoxNEWS and Ann Coulter is your dream date, or if you are so far left you contribute frequently to KPFK: the media cycle for mass shootings is the same.
King argues forcefully - and sometimes vulgarly - for gun control. King is a gun owner himself, and does not want to disarm the country - but he does want assault weapons banned, and large magazines banned; and he wants background checks.
What King argues isn't new or innovative, but the writing is vintage King. There are phrases I remember from "The Shawshank Redemption" (the movie adaptation, not the original novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption") and the unabridged edition of "The Stand." There's also a theme in the first and last section of "Guns" that runs through "The Library Policeman" and "The Ten O'Clock People." The theme was chilling in the stories, and the probability it's a reality is startling.
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When I purchased this, I was expecting a book closer to Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickle and Dimed: On (not) Getting by In America", or James D. Scurlock's "Maxed Out". Ehrenrich's and Scurlock's books are very good, but lightly touch on specific aspects of the problem.
I was pleased to find that "The Working Poor: Invisible in America" is a much more comprehensive and thoroughly researched book on the topic. In fact, it's so good, it really could be used in a college course on the subject.
At times, the author was bogged down in minute detail. The detail was appropriate, but sometimes wandered from the topic and was hard to follow.
I appreciated that this isn't a "those people" kind of book. When he uses real-life examples, Shipler knows and appreciates his subjects. He approaches them with clear eyes, neither deifying or demonizing them.
The performance was a little rough and slow. I would have appreciated a little faster narration.
At the beginning of every September, A&E takes a few hours away from 'reality' shows like "Duck Dynasty", "Storage Wars" and "Flipping (some American city hit hard by the Great Recession)" and shows actual reality - 9/11 documentaries, or somtimes, sanitized 9/11 docudramas. The History Channel sets aside "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men" and returns to its roots and spends the weekend showing various aspects of 9/11, from a long interview of former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to a three hour show exploring conspiracy theories.
I don't watch those shows, but it's not out of sense of boredom or a misplaced sense of outrage that basic cable is exploiting the anniversary. 9/11 is history, and just like my father has had a life long fascination with World War II (he was alive for the bombing of Pearl Harbor) I have a fascination for what happened, and why, that beautiful September morning. The reason I don't watch the shows is first, I'm really primarily a reader/listener; second, "The 9/11 Comission Report" (2004) is so thoroughly researched and well written, it was a finalist for a National Book Award, and no non-fiction show compares to it; and, finally, I was watching CNN as the attacks happened. I don't have to see what happened on video again. I remember all too well.
I read the entire book on line in 2004, and every year since then, I listen to parts of this book. I've been doing this long before I joined Audible. Since the book has always been in the public domain, it's been available through Librivox for years. The Librivox version was read by 19? 20? volunteer readers, the year of its release, and the quality ranges from astoundingly good to mediocre, especially with pronunciation of The Middle Eastern names. After 10 years of war, we are all mich better at Arabi names.
The question is, isn't whether the book is worth the time. It most definitely is. It's like reading/listening to a Tom Clancy on steroids. So, then, is it worth it to buy on Audible a book you can listen to or read on line for free? It definitely was and is for me. I was able to easily download it to my iPhone, although it's 200 + mB, so make sure you're on WiFi when you do. It's well narrated, and the production quality smooth. The speed of the narration is a bit of an issue - one narrator is much slower than the others. Listen to that narrator at 1.25 speed, and it's fine.
Which leads me to why I listen or read, year after year. I worry that I'll forget. No, I'll never forget some things - like watching the second plane crash into the other tower, as it happened. But I worry that I'll forget the littler things, like Barbara Olson, the wife of then Solicitor General Theodore Olson, was on Flight 77 when it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, and she called him during the hijack. Conservative Theodore Olson was fresh from successfully representing George Bush in Bush v Gore (2000). Theodore Olson subsequently turned to Gore's lawyer, David Boies, and together, they were responsible for overturning laws against same sex marriage. I wonder if somejow, that singular assault on democracy on 9/11 made Theodore Olson a formidable champion of civil rights for a group that hadn't been embraced by the political right.
This book also has the clearest explanation of Islam and the difference between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims that I've found. It explains a Caliphate - which is even more relevant today than it was 10 years ago, when the report was published. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (prosaically nicknamed ISIS) controls far more land than Osama bin Laden ever did.
I listen to remember; to think of how we all changed; and to keep trying to understand why.
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