The second book in Charles Bowden’s “Unnatural History of the United States” sextet, Blues for Cannibals is an elegiac rumination on our hunger for self-consumption and destruction as a species.
Cultivated from the fierce ideas seeded in Blood Orchid, Blues for Cannibals is an elegiac reflection on death, pain, and a wavering confidence in humanity’s own abilities for self-preservation. After years of reporting on border violence, sex crimes, and the devastation of the land, Bowden struggles to make sense of the many ways in which we destroy ourselves and whether there is any way to survive. Here he confronts a murderer facing execution, sex offenders of the most heinous crimes, a suicidal artist, a prisoner obsessed with painting portraits of presidents, and other people and places that constitute our worst impulses and our worst truths. Painful, heartbreaking, and forewarning, Bowden at once tears us apart and yearns for us to find ourselves back together again.
“A thrillingly good writer whose grandness of vision is only heightened by the bleak originality of his voice.”
Ron Hansen, New York Times Book Review
“A major literary work of profound social consciousness . . . [Bowden] writes with the intensity of Joan Didion, the voracious hunger of Henry Miller, the feral intelligence and irony of Hunter Thompson, and the wit and outrage of Edward Abbey . . . This is gutsy, soulful, pyrotechnic, significant. And transformative writing.”
Donna Seaman, Chicago Tribune
“A vivid, lyrical journey through the American Southwest . . . [but] this book is no travelogue. Rather, it is a visceral exploration of a much darker landscape, that of the human psyche.”
Debra Ginsberg, San Diego Union-Tribune
“A book of absolutely furious beauty . . . At the height of [Bowden’s] rapturous indignation, with majestic lamentations stretching out almost to the snapping point, he sounds like Walt Whitman in a very bad mood . . . Sweet bloody Jerusalem, when he’s cooking, who can touch him?”
David Kipen, San Francisco Chronicle