Slouching through America to piece together remnants of the American male’s soul.
New York Times reporter LeDuff insinuates himself into other people’s bad deals and power trips. This mostly happens on society’s fringes, the strip-mall edges of town and forgotten pockets of economic blight where he seems most comfortable. LeDuff is quite capable of revealing human dignity among the ruins, but this does not necessarily drive his work. He excels at framing losers, phonies and various permutations of exploited/exploiter, along with the dreck, drugs and alcohol that tend to grease these folks’ slides. His aim was to “seek out the American man at a profound time of war and debt and extravagance and sexual dysfunction and digitization and globalization and so many other -ations that people . . . no longer understand what it is to be an American.” The venues range from a gay rodeo and a bare-knuckle fight club in Oakland to a Pentecostal church in Appalachia whose worshippers handle snakes to the seamy enclaves of New York City, where he follows hopeful young male models. In the gonzo manner of Hunter Thompson, LeDuff lets himself become the story: He rides a bull; he fights a huge biker and loses; he tries to become this year’s “IT BOY. Face on a Times Square billboard, on the back of a magazine, on the downside of an uptown bus.” Pat conclusions tend to support his dark visions of injustice, apathy and economic stagnation permeating the land: “No jobs and a mountain of debt left to us by the Baby Boomers. You can’t go to a factory any more and make a good life.”
Revealing, raw-edged rants leavened by hangover humor.