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Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  172 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
In this ground-shaking, breath-taking cri de coeur, Bowden delves with love-driven fury for the roots of our brutal history in this once-brave New World. The figures he casts before us-from Pancho Villa to a modern-day drug lord, from General Sherman to a skid-row Sioux named Robert Sundance-trace a story not so much of rapaciousness as of fear and loathing. Bowden twines
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 27th 2002 by North Point Press (first published 1995)
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Feb 07, 2014 Jamie rated it really liked it
When there’s one name I hear from Rick Bass, and Ed Abbey, and Elmore Leonard, and Harry Crews— I listen. No, scratch that. I can’t get it in my hands fast enough. Goddamn, they were right: Charles Bowden.

He says, “I speak for the mongrel, the mestizo, the half-breed, the bastard, the alley cat, the cur, the hybrid, the mule, the whore, the unforeseen strain that pounds against all the safe and disgusting doors. I speak for vitality, rough edges, torn fences, broken walls, wild rivers, sweat-soa
Dec 30, 2010 Dan rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010
i first learned about bowden while listening to an appearance on democracy now!, where he was talking about the drug cartel culture of juarez, and how it relates to the u.s.'s idiotic "war on drugs" and draconian immigration policies. accordingly, i approached blood orchid expecting the insights of a cantankerous leftist along the lines of mike davis. that's not what i got.

to begin with, blood orchid isn't really about much of anything. there's plenty of potential for interesting insights, parti
Jan 24, 2009 Charles rated it it was amazing
Read this. Then read the next one, Blues for Cannibals, and finish up with the last of the loose trilogy, Some of the Dead are Still Breathing. When it's all over you will have probed the depths of human depravity and greed, all of it true, yet will come through it all holding a small but bright diamond of hope in your hand.
Joe Brunory
Dec 29, 2013 Joe Brunory rated it it was amazing
Definitely a book you have to read if you enjoy a strong voice. To me, this was the most amazing book of nonfiction that I've read since In Cold Blood. Masterful style, brilliant content, and challenging topics.
Jan 25, 2008 Mark rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one.
Recommended to Mark by: No one really... but I saw it in Lydias to-read shelf
Shelves: history
Don't waste your time. Perhaps I don't have the patience for this one. I can not say for sure what made this as utterly unreadable as it was. Whatever the case it fell short of expectations, as misguided as they may have been.
Nov 10, 2008 Quel rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading in schools
A.E. Reiff
Jun 14, 2014 A.E. Reiff rated it liked it
Begin the Bowdeen

Just when you think Bowdeen has gone off the rails to the Seminary of the Damned you realize he is talking about the history of the unthinkable from Ancient Mayan to Argentina to Vietnam. Of ten million natives dead of smallpox and a hundred million buffalo removed. You try to put that up and get a bad connection. How can his genre be called nonfiction when in the midst of charging the gold statue of sacrifice they are running the corridors of the Pentagon to retrieve their fil
Apr 26, 2016 Jordy rated it it was amazing
Viva la Bowden and RIP
May 06, 2016 Austin rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a cohesive narrative or linear thinking, Blood Orchid is not for you. If you've already had your fill of our country/society/culture and its corruption, systematic injustice, and institutional unfairness, then this book is not for you. If you have consonants and vowels in your name and like to keep a positive outlook on life, this book is not for you. So really, most likely, to be completely frank, this book is probably not for you. But it was for me.
Charles Bowden's non-f
Mar 20, 2016 Jim rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I have ambivalent feelings about this book, so it's hard for me to rate it. It's a book-length series of interrelated stream of consciousness rants on the rape of the environment and the destruction of Native American people and their culture by our forefathers, continuing into present times. It's also a meditation on the violent history of the land and peoples along the U.S./Mexican border. Bowden is a talented writer, and I agree with much of what he says, yet it's a bitter pill to sw
Apr 17, 2016 Jay rated it it was amazing
I definitely put Charles Bowden right up there with my creative non-fiction heroes: Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson. He 19s developed his own style that takes us deeper, farther into a Mexico that we are so, so close to and will never understand. I mean, come on 13 the violence is here. We read about the body count in Tijuana and the spillover into San Diego, but Bowden has the talent to put a face on it.
Blood Orchid is less about flowers, but a lot more about violence. Like the carnivore Or
Sep 29, 2007 Graham rated it did not like it
Shelves: quitreading
In his acknowledgments, Scott Carrier called Bowden the best American non-fiction writer working today. I noticed Bowden recently wrote something in National Geographic about the new wall being put up along the U.S. Mexico Border.

That said, I found his work repulsive. He stumbles past earnest and winds up merely projecting his own appetites and dysfunctions onto the places and people he visits. The tone is detached, angry, brooding.

He processes only those observations that confirm his diseased i
Sep 23, 2014 Graham rated it really liked it
Tricky one to get a bead on. Bowden's an interesting enough character in that he often seems wholly unlikable in a sort of hyper-macho libertarian fashion, but other times somewhat less of a caricature (especially when the guard is let down). His is a highly stylized approach, one in which the quotability of nearly every sentence can be both engrossing (in a Barthes-ian textual pleasure sorta way) and frustrating (in a Nietzschean epigram sorta way, possessed of its own cleverness to an extent d ...more
Jun 04, 2016 Salt344 rated it really liked it
A bleak meditation on the darkness of human nature and how it played out in the American west and how it plays out today in the world at large. The book ranges from the destruction of the buffalo to the Phoenix program in Vietnam and the Disappeared of Argentina. It's strong stuff and it's overall tone reminded me of No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian. It's a tough read but very thought provoking.
Jeffrey McCord
Jun 22, 2007 Jeffrey McCord rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: poets, journalists, gardeners, maniacs, and combinations of the above
Genre bending journalism. A look at the darker aspects of people and their habits and governments. Nice summer reading--Argentine torture, drug dealers, the desert, rape, pillaging. He reflects on these things and mashes them up into a messy goo that's beautiful but grotesque. Kind of like a dead animal in the road that you can't help but stare into.
Feb 13, 2009 Ben rated it really liked it
Though Blood Orchid seems less focused than Blues for Cannibals, it's also driven by an unmitigated anger. Bowden's lush, meandering prose serves to filter this raw emotion, and the reader is left with a book that may be less direct than its follow-up. But it's also more poetically potent.
Jun 22, 2012 Js rated it really liked it
This book is a wake up call to the realities of what is happening at the edges of America.
Bowden writes beautifully in a manner that lulls one in to the beauty of his descriptions before pouncing on the reader with the harshness of life for those society has forgotten.
Aug 06, 2007 Deidre rated it it was amazing
Heavy, heady, slightly distressing (in a what-the-hell-is-this-country-doing kind of way). I sort of wanted to reread it as soon as I finished.
Jul 17, 2009 Rowan rated it liked it
Shelves: literary, crime, noir, mexico
Choppy, jarring account, by an ecologist/journalist, of the border culture underworld of crime, rape, drug-smuggling, and culture clash.
Edd Franz
Jul 22, 2008 Edd Franz rated it it was amazing
A fevered rant on American Culture and our collective loss of something real and powerful, and hope for regaining it. "Perhaps the problem is not physical . . ."
Michael Golden
Michael Golden rated it it was amazing
Jan 24, 2009
Ryan rated it really liked it
Aug 04, 2011
Pete rated it it was amazing
Nov 12, 2015
Josh rated it it was amazing
Sep 04, 2016
Jeffrey Keeten
Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
Mar 25, 2011
Ami rated it it was amazing
Jul 15, 2008
Andrea Peacock
Andrea Peacock rated it liked it
Jun 04, 2011
April rated it liked it
Apr 18, 2012
Erik Rook
Erik Rook rated it it was amazing
Jun 02, 2013
Sara rated it liked it
Aug 16, 2012
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CHARLES BOWDEN’s journalism appears regularly in Harper’s GQ, and other national publications. He is the author of several previous books of nonfiction, including Down by the River.

In more than a dozen groundbreaking books and many articles, Charles Bowden has blazed a trail of fire from the deserts of the Southwest to the centers of power where abstract ideas of human nature hold sway — and to t
More about Charles Bowden...

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