August 3, 2004

Reefer Madness (book review)

Quite often, I have to read information about my field (substance abuse) in order to keep current. Although I love reading, I try not to read too many books about the field - mostly because, if I have to live it 40 hours a week, I would rather focus on something else. However, when I saw that the author of Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, was writing about the underground market (including marijuana), it was just too good to pass up.

Luckily, thanks to plenty of free time this weekend, I was able to make my way through Reefer Madness, which focuses on three primary underground markets: marijuana, immigrant labor, and pornography. (Don't worry - although it's adult in content, there's no graphic sex or violence). Schlosser examines some of the forces at work within these three areas, and how they impact the "mainstream" economy.

The book's two essays about the "hotter" issues - marijuana and pornography - are the strongest, with the labor trade a close second. (In all fairness, all three essays are well-researched and well-written). Schlosser finishes the book with a capsule summary and argument about how all three have impacted the mainstream. It is a very informative, enlightening book that comes to some somewhat problematic conclusions about its subject matter. (Read: I disagree with some of his conclusions, but I respect the fact that he has taken the time to consider the facts, which is often not the case in these areas).

Is this an easy read? No, because it provides a really strong historical context (especially for pornography), and in our cut-to-the-chase culture, his book demands careful attention. However, like Fast Food Nation, Schlosser's commentary provides illuminating insight not only into these phenomena, but into our entire culture as well.

Definitely worth pursuing.

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