Dines Family Book Club October Selection: Bad Land

Bad Land:  An American Romance by Jonathan Rahan

Ginger poses with Bad Land in the Dines Dining Room.

Ginger poses with Bad Land in the Dines Dining Room.

My Review from My Goodreads.com Account

This book mirrors the landscape it describes: slow, meandering, and seemingly endless. Although the tragedy of the Montana homesteaders is worthy of a place in American history, the author fails to make the personal connections between the reader and the subject of the book. Raban interviews many different people along the Montana plains, but his writing fails to make the reader feel as if he or she knows the people. It seems more like listening to snippets of a public radio broadcast than making connections with human subjects. The book gives the impression of an overzealous Brit exploring the wildness of the American West in a cheesy PBS documentary, yet, to Americans, it is the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder minus the compellingly simple narrative arcs. Raban meanders through the “Bad Land” of Montana, and every inch seems miserable and gray.

Post-Reading Discussion Questions 

by Jennifer and David Dines

1. Compare the effects of the Homestead Act on the railroad industry to its effects on individual homesteaders.

2. How did personal pride and independence influence homesteaders?

3. What is the role of faith in American invention?

4. How does the Wollaston family’s lifestyle contrast with the environment in which they live?

5. How did the homesteaders’ view of themselves differ from the government’s view of the homesteaders?

6. How did advertising serve as a catalyst for the settlement of the railway?

7. What is the role of debt in middle class American adulthood?

8. How are the grasshopper plagues a metaphor for the homesteaders themselves?

9. In what way is self-sufficiency threatening to organized government?

10. Did the homesteaders realize the extent of their effect on Boston and New York-based investors?

Index Card found in the used copy of the book purchased at Brookline Booksmith

Index Card found in the used copy of the book purchased at Brookline Booksmith

Shutdown 2013: Interview with a Government Librarian

Kara B. (a.k.a. Bollywood Blogger  Filmi Girl) and I have been friends since we attended college together at Berklee back in the early part of the millennium. We were in several bands together, and we have stayed friends for the past decade plus.

Me (l) and Kara B. (r) play in our band Anti-Love Project at Great Scoot in Allston circa 2003.

Me (l) and Kara B. (r) play in our band Anti-Love Project at Great Scott in Allston circa 2003.

Fast forward to 2013.

The Philadelphia Water Ice Factory: Kara B. and I two weeks ago... striking poses at H Street NE DC

The Philadelphia Water Ice Factory: Kara B. and I two weeks ago… striking poses at H Street NE DC

This morning, Kara B. granted me this interview about the effects of the government shutdown on a federal librarian working in our nation’s capital.

Literacy Change: What is your job?
Kara B.: I’m a librarian for the federal government. My job is completely nonpartisan. Tracking down accurate statistics or digging up hard to find articles or recommending background reading on a certain policy topic, I make sure that our patrons get the information that they need to do their jobs.
LC: How does the government shutdown affect you?
KB: I am on unpaid leave with no guarantee that I will receive backpay. That is my biggest concern at the moment: how big a financial hit will I take from this shutdown. And for the hundreds of thousands of federal employees in the same situation–not to mention the hundreds of thousands more forced to work without pay–it’s really insulting to see certain segments of the media play this shutdown off like a joke. Our jobs, our professions, our lives are not being treated with respect.
LC: I understand that you were out and about in D.C. yesterday. What was different from a normal weekday?

KB: There was a very strange mood in the city yesterday. Many employees were required to go into work for a few hours in the morning in order to shutdown their offices and when I went out for a walk around lunch time I saw a lot of aimless looking people in suits. Rush hour on the subway in the evening was eerily quiet.

LC: What do you plan to do with your time during the shutdown?

KB: Because my family and friends are in similar situations, we’re going to try and get through it together. I spent yesterday afternoon having coffee with a furloughed friend from IRS and today my father, who is also furloughed, and I are going on a little day trip to Southern Virginia. I plan to spend as much time away from my computer and the television and the news as possible.

LC: Are there any books you are hoping to read during the shutdown?

KB: Unfortunately I was too busy on Monday to assemble a reading list of work-related books to check out but I may use the time to catch up on the stack of books on my bedside table, which includes: