Joe Queenan is one of my favorite writers and his New York Times book review of Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs are Altering American Lives, Minds, and Bodies by Greg Crister makes me realize how nice it must be to have free rein from editors. As aspiring authors, we often aren’t given room to run, we aren’t allowed to stretch out and experiment, and we often have to keep things as spare and antiseptic as possible. But established, successful, and respected journalist’s like Queenan are allowed to pull out the thesarus and let loose.
Check out this opening: “Apocalyptic literature naturally gravitates toward the maudlin, lamenting that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, usually courtesy of someone like Eminem or Tom DeLay. This is what makes Greg Critser’s Generation Rx such an unexpected delight. Although his message is unrelievedly depressing – drug companies, with the nation’s physicians and the federal government already on the payroll, have transmogrified a self-reliant nation into a herd of functional drug addicts – there is something so congenial and non-self-righteous about the way he tells his story that few of the scoundrels singled out for public obloquy will take personal offense… Unlike the malignantly partisan Michael Moore or Ralph Nader, arguably the least bubbly reformer since Oliver Cromwell, Critser spreads his gospel of rack and ruin in an almost good-natured way, explaining who paid off whom and how many Americans died as a result of it, but without getting especially nasty. Indeed, what prevents Generation Rx from reading like a writ of indictment is the author’s folksy turns of phrase, which sometimes go off in unintentionally hilarious directions.”
This rollicking and thesarus-thumbing opening makes for a piece that is a pleasant respite from the usual bland book reviews. Check out Queenan’s entire review here.