Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator (ludickid) wrote,
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator

That shit ain't right

A good book to read is this. It's called Raw Deal: Horrible and Ironic Stories of Forgotten Americans by Ken Smith, author of the invaluable and hilarious Ken's Guide to the Bible. And when I say it's 'good', what I mean is, it's 'enlightening and fascinating, but also conceivably the most depressing book ever written'.

Basically, Smith gathers together 22 stories of American people (well, mostly American, and not all people) who, despite their innocence, positive attitudes or good intentions, got completely, gloriously, historically, stupendously, and usually fatally shafted by life, and went on to be completely forgotten despite the massive screwjobs they were handed. They include:

- Ota Benga, a pygmy who was exhibited in the monkey house of the Bronx Zoo
- Thaddeus Cahill, who built a machine that could perfectly replicate any musical instrument
- Frank Olson, who was driven to suicide after being unknowingly dosed with LSD
- Black Kettle, who desperately tried to make peace between the Cheyenne and the U.S. government but got massacred anyway
- Horace Wells, an early pioneer of anaesthesia
- the prairie dog, which is the subject of an ongoing and entirely pointless slaughter
- Ebenezer Cade, who went into the hospital after a minor car wreck and got injected with radiation for weeks
- Nathan Stubblefield, a melon farmer who invented the mobile phone and wireless broadcast technology in 1892
- Leo Frank, who had the bad taste to be Jewish in the south in the 1910s
- Wesley Everest, the last IWW martyr
- Jerry Tarbot, the living unknown soldier
- Karen Silkwood, who -- well, you know who Karen Silkwood is

Smith has a really engaging writing style; he's a skillful researcher and an adept synthesizer of information. He's also capable of being dryly funny one moment and devastatingly direct the next. Reading these brief and hopeless narratives fills you with an almost tangible desire to do something to help the poor bastards who suffered so, but of course, nothing can be done. It's sort of like getting a booster shot of empathy. Highly recommended.
Tags: lit

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