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Blues for Cannibals: The Notes from Underground

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  119 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
"Blues for Cannibals" continues the quest Bowden began in "Blood Orchid"-to discover the headwaters of the sickness that seeps through the American soul, and to consider what it might mean to come fully alive in a time of exalted consumption, global pillage, gated communities, and wholesale destruction of the environment. Down, down he leads us, in intoxicating, nearly hal ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 6th 2002 by North Point Press
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We throw our money away. Even worse, we use it to contribute to our own mental degradation by consumer culture and our own slow, numb intellectual and emotional deaths. We line the pockets of the rich on a daily basis while letting the poor starve to death.

And I think most of us know on some level that we do this a lot and know on some level that it's real stupid. It's even evil. Spend $40 less a month on shit you don't need and don't even really want and you can give an entire village running
Bern J
Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of the Charles Bowden books that I've read, I liked this one the least. I get that we live in a materialist culture that eats it's young but Bowden isn't the only person to have ever lost close friends & relatives to cancer, violence & suicide. Bowden freely admits that he
lives on the edge. Violence is part of the territory.
Get over it, Bowden, move on; no one gets out of here alive.
I never realized that Yaquis are such bad asses; good to know as I live in Arizona.
And I always enjoy hear
Jul 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Author is a former newspaper crime reporter but became disgusted with reporting raped and murdered children. He continues to write maintains proclivity for writing about America's cultural underbelly. There's a chapter on the teamster's union, LBJ, life in an unincorporated Mexican border town, suicide of an artist, a prison execution. His literary style leaves you feeling as though you're residing in a bleak Edward Hopper painting.
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
There are a couple essays in here as fine as anything you'll read. They're surrounded by some one-note material, unfortunately. However, the man can write his fool head off.

I'm slowly looking for and getting everything else he's written, though, if that tells you anything.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I resisted Bowden's intense voice and point of view. He won. I wish more Americans would read him. We are consuming the earth's resources at an alarming, greedy rate that leaves little for others less fortunate. Our capitalist agendas justify this. As Bowden says, the ultimate form of capitalism is crime, theft (whether white-collar or full-out gangsterism). He seems to live with that knowledge and does not let the reader off the hook either. Re-reading him, I have been tempted to read aloud in ...more
Simeon Berry
"Torch Song" (published as a separate essay in The Best American Essays 1999) alone makes this book worth it, as it is arguably one of the best essays I've ever read (with Bernard Cooper's "Truth Serum" and Joan Didion's "The White Album"). It describes his time as a reporter on the sex crimes beat, and it is extraordinarily brutal and visceral, but also lucid and terribly effective, incisively analyzing how sex is constructed in American culture.

Sadly--though not surprisingly--most of the rest
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
There are long passages I liked, but the overall feel is too melodramatic. The narrator compares himself to the notoriously thirsty desert tree mesquite all throughout, like that self-ascribed kinship automatically qualifies him to divine America's unconscious socio-cultural cannibalism somehow. One cool thing: he talks about the Austin crazy-house I used to live near and write about in "Undamned!" Also a long chapter about the madness of LBJ and one or two about the Yaqui Indians, but overall s ...more
Jul 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
I read one chapter. One horrific, depressing, disgusting chapter about the worst people in America doing the world's worst things to other people. It made me sad. More than that, it made me physically ill. Yes, this terrible stuff happens. Yes, it happens more than we'd all care to admit. That doesn't mean, however, that I want to sit and assess it, like poking a finger into an open wound to feel its contours. There's plenty of horror situated close to home already. I don't benefit from contempl ...more
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Bowden works through lessons to live, phenomenological approach to uncommon humanity he compares to the Mesquite tree whose roots can go a couple football fields down. Works through his love of cooking, food, the booze, the women, the wine, the heat, and the hate of the world.
"Weather will be a factor. Watch for blue mists. Expect drought. Know the flood is coming. Read menus carefully. Open your mouth" he prescribes in a prophetic voice grounded in what he rues and what he savors.
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Charles Bowden is an excellent observer and writer. The very end of the book was a bit difficult to understand what he was talking about (not the "Coda" story, the end of the previous essay).

His writing style may be difficult for some to get into, but once you are engaged, it can be quite beautiful.
Corie Sanford
Jun 03, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: haveread
I didn't make it through the whole book and maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it very much...well, I enjoyed the first half and then I couldn't force myself to finish it. Interesting, yet self indulgent.
Mar 31, 2016 rated it did not like it
Experimental writing that didn't work for me. I tried, though. I did read it to the end, although I walked away with nothing.
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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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