Nick Reding, “Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town” (2009)

nick-reding-methland-the-death-and-life-of-an-american-small-town-2009“Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of Methland, Nick Reding’s unnerving investigative account of two gruesome years in the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself, in forces almost too great to comprehend. . .
In the grisliest passage of Methland, which deserves to be quoted at some length so as to convey its hellish momentum, he invites us to share in the torments of Roland Jarvis, a paranoid small-time meth cook, in the Dante-like interlude after the combustion of his improvised home lab (just one of hundreds in the area).
‘Jarvis looked down and saw what he thought was egg white on his bare arms. It was not egg white; it was the viscous state of his skin now that the water had boiled out of it. Jarvis flung it off himself, and then he saw that where the egg white had been he could now see roasting muscle. His skin was dripping off his body in sheets. . . . He’d have pulled the melting skeins of skin from himself in bigger, more efficient sections but for the fact that his fingers had burned off of his hands. His nose was all but gone now, too, and he ran back and forth among the gathered neighbors, unable to scream, for his esophagus and his voice box had cooked inside his throat.'” [. . .]    –Walter Kirn, The New York Times, July 1, 2009