things fall apart

I’m halfway through George Packer’s “The Unwinding” and I understand why the book got all the praise it did last year. Packer accumulates an unbelievable amount of detail about the last 30 years, and there’s a terrible momentum to the story, a sense of things getting worse and worse, faster and faster. The scary thing is, you know reading it that there’s no bottom, no wall to hit, no place for the nation to pick itself up and start over.

I think the most valuable part of “The Unwinding” is how it calls attention to what’s in plain sight – the destruction of industries, neighborhoods, lives, what the country is supposed to be, even a sense of what’s real – yet isn’t the news, or what we talk about. We can’t see what’s happened because we can’t see enough of it to make sense out of the whole. Packer fixes that – his basic method, interwoven stories, loosely chronological, has the effect of bringing us up to speed. We get a little, then a little more, and gradually the big, terrible picture is in front of us.

That’s my halfway evaluation – maybe the book turns out different, but I kinda doubt it.

Listening, to no great end: this afternoon, a little to the stream of St. Louis’s relatively new classical station from the “Radio Arts Foundation” (great name) web site; from cd, some Charlie Parker on Verve, which grated on me, and an Ellington album, “Masterpieces By Ellington,” which I liked. Then Pandora’s bebop channel. Tonight, Schubert Symphonies 3, 5 and 8, again from a Warner Classics budget collection.


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