In Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1919, American author and filmmaker Paul Auster’s grandmother fatally shot her husband. Auster’s father Samuel was naturally devastated by the murder, which impacted his own life and, by extension, that of his future family. Bloodbath Nation is both a memoir and an examination of the social and political impact of gun ownership and violence in America, where yearly deaths from gunshot wounds come close to eclipsing those of traffic accidents.
Slotted between the five essays which make up Bloodbath Nation are photographs, by Spencer Ostrander, of department stores, schools and residential locations where mass shootings once occurred. Auster describes the photos as “gravestones of our collective grief”; there is an eerie sense of abandonment to the locations in the photos with not one person in sight.
Bloodbath Nation is a beautifully written, disturbing, passionate plea for change. Auster claims no miracle solution to end gun violence in America overnight. Still, he emphasises the case for this malaise to be urgently tackled – through greater regulation, with an acknowledgment that an outright gun ban is unlikely to happen in a deeply divided country. “A majority of Americans,” Auster writes, “support the right of individuals to own guns, but that same majority is overwhelmingly in favour of exacting measures that would put a stop to the deadly violence caused by guns.”
Bloodbath Nation, Paul Auster (Faber)
Price: £25. Info: here
words DAVID NOBAKHT
Want more books?
The latest reviews, interviews, features and more, from Wales and beyond.