Monday, July 5, 2010

Hella Nation by Evan Wright

Hella Nation by Evan Wright. G. P. Putnam's Sons, a Division of The Penguin Group (USA), Inc. April 2009. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9780399155741

What's it like to be the oddball, the type of "out of the box" person or group that most people pretend to admire - from a distance in reality? What makes such folks tick? And whether or not one judges with the terms dysfunctional, weird, strange, etc., etc., shouldn't one understand these outsiders since the world is full of same? Evan Wright, who previously wrote for "The Hustler" magazine and "Rolling Stone" newspaper brings the reader into the world of men and woman who have a very definite but different outlook on the American Dream.

The author introduces the reader to his own evolution from a rebel using drugs to cope with reality into a sober, reflective person seeking to pen his explorations of what he calls a "tour of the Lost Tribes of America. Therefore, the reader is surprised that the opening account concerns American troops serving in Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold in southeastern Afghanistan. The area is a veritable dust storm waiting to happen and one gets an uncensored glimpse into the grinding, tense yet mundane atmosphere these soldiers endure daily, fantasizing and teasing newbies about the happy meals one can get in a nearby village and coping with unremitting sexual tension, fear of being killed and spurts of total inactivity.

The scene then shifts to the world of a professional skateboarder, a daredevil who performs his most dangerous stunts when totally drunk but someone who makes a fortune in this field while claiming to reject most acceptable values and occupations. We continue to meet similar yet different characters, taxi-dance hall girls occupied by would-be fantasy partners, radical protestors with the best of intentions carried out with the most destructive possible means, neo-Nazi groups seriously believing in anti-everything-but-white living, con artists, porn professionals and so much more that defies one's most imaginative moments.

Hella Nation raises more questions than it answers. It stretches the reader's definition from what is acceptable to offer a portrait of men and women who find satisfaction and purpose in unique situations that are rather dark, disturbing, frightening, sometimes funny in a skewed fashion, deceptive, laid back, sacred and profane. In a sense, Hella Nation defies description and in that goal Evan Wright has succeeded in presenting another side of America! The conclusion is yours!

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