The Toronto Star
ENTERTAINMENT, Sunday, January 20, 2002, p. D12
Our dangerous world
Caleb Carr is probably best known as a mystery novelist, particularly for The Alienist and subsequent thrillers set in a very moody recreation of 19th century New York City. But he's really a military historian by training, contributing learned thoughts on geopolitical conflict to numerous quarterlies and magazines, and the editing sensibility behind the Modern Library War Series. In The Lessons Of Terror: A History Of Warfare Against Civilians- Why It Has Always Failed And Why It Will Fail Again (Random House, 272 pages, $29.95), Carr argues that terrorism against innocent civilians has always been with us but further, that it has never succeeded and never will. Such was the publisher's zeal to rush this little book into post-Sept. 11 bookshelves that an embarassing errata sheet is included- "intimidate" should be replaced with "imitate, " for example- not the kind of thing one expects from the House of Bertelsmann.
Research analyst Eric Croddy was also fighting the clock to get Chemical And Biological Warefare: A Comprehensive Survey For The Concerned Citizen (Copernicus, 306 pages, $41) to the printers. "As these lines are being written, firemen, police officers and a host of other rescue workers are still trying to save victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," begins the preface to this "non-alarmist" tour of the history and potential use of everything from anthrax, of course, to sarin.
American Jeffrey D. Simon also rush to update a previously published book in order to put a World Trade Centre spin on The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience With Terrorism, Second Edition (Indiana, 464 pages, $31).
English journalist Jon Ronson has by far the most readable new title of the lot, a highly personalized account of his globe-trouting jaunt through the world of the dangerous, the paranoid and the just plain wacky people who believe there exists, somewhere, "a secret room from which a tiny elite secretly rules the world." In Them: Adventures With Extremists (Simon & Schuster, 330 pages, $36.50), Ronson says that as both journalist and Jew, he was often considered one of "them" himself. He hangs around with one of Britain's more notorious Muslim fundamentalists and visits a jihad training camp; fires weapons with a Ruby Ridge survivor and learns about black helicopters and the New World Order; gets chased by men in dark glasses while training to observe a Bilderberg Group meeting in Portugal; attends a KKK rally and, just to round off the tour with some varied ingredients, witnesses a bizarre pagan ritual conducted by the political and corporate bigshots in California's Bohemian Grove. You can guess how Ronson's book begins: "In the hours that followed the heartbreaking attacks on New York City and Washington..." But he sums up his subjects this way: "One thing you quickly learn about them is that they really don't like being called extremists. In fact that often tell me that we are the real extremists. They say the Western liberal cosmopolitan establishment is itself a fanatical, depraved belief system. I like it when they say this because it makes me feel as if I have a belief system."
Fame and fortune
New Yorker Elizabeth Wurtzel had it all- access-granting looks, Harvard degree, a seemingly limitless magazine career before her and two best-selling books, Prozac Nation and Bitch, already in the trophy case- and she was still in her 20s. Truth was, none of those good things gave her a sense of fulfillment; they could not defeat the depression that she wrote about in Prozac Nation. Her relationships always fell apart; she lost every magazine job she won. Blow and junk only temporarily relieved the pain. Then along came a doctor with the suggestion that Wurtzel try Ritalin to help boost the effect of her anti-depression meds. Within weeks, she writes in More, Now, Again: A Memoir Of Addiction (Simon & Schuster, 335 pages, $38), she had turned into a hard-case Ritalin junkie- grinding the tablets and snorting the powder for a bigger blast, with a cocaine chaser now and then. This book isn't redemptive self-help, although Wurtzel has apparently climbed back out of the abyss. She writes of cutting her arms and legs with razor blades and knives, for years, "because the pain was a relief from pain, other kinds of pain," and of being a fourth-generation booze or dope addict. It's powerful stuff.
Category: Arts and Culture
Length: Medium, 609 words
Copyright © 2002 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.
Doc. : news·20020120·TS·0GVG9D4A1×1GVG9D49V