Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser
The book had gotten so much press, I couldn't pass it up when wandering through the Unabridged Bookstore. Schlosser, in his introduction and conclusion makes a point of telling us that this is a tale of money. In reality, it's three vastly different tales, and the dollars frequently are a secondary focus within them. The first, Reefer Madness, largely deals with the ridiculousness of marijuana law in the US, and wasn't terrifically enlightening. In the Strawberry Fields, the second essay, discusses the treatment of migrant and illegal-alien farm workers in California's strawberry industry, from housing and sanitary conditions, to the often-bought fantasy of the benefits of sharecropping. I hadn't considered before that so many of our fruits and vegetables must be laboriously hand picked. It is a story of greed, prejudice and governmental collusion. I'll never look at a strawberry the same. In An Empire of the Obscene, Scholosser chronicles the machinations of Reuben Sturmann, from his selling comic books from the truck of his car through his virtual control of the entire US porn industry and beyond. It is also a history lesson, reminding us of Comstock's legacy, and of our varying prurience as a society throughout time, among factions, as private seekers who would publicly deny it. Throughout the book, I guess the money does bleed through: we want what we want and if we can find it, we'll buy it, regardless of its legality, or the perils involved in its production.