‘Iowa Terror’ Review
Denny Smithson’s, Cover To Cover, KPFA, Berkeley
Monday, April 28, 5-5:30pm CDT
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April 29, 7-9pm CDT, Freedom Fighter Radio
May 5, 10-12pm CDT, Carol Brouillet, Questioning War, Organizing Resistance
Terror … in a small town.
We are watching everyone … but the ones we should.
“Terse and funny and dry as a dead Iowa corn snake baking in the sun. Palecek delivers a quick, deadpan slap to reactionary, mindless post-9/11 America. The sting is delightful.”
– Mark Morford, columnist, San Francisco Chronicle
Monthly Review Press — Reviewing Iowa Terror
by Seth Sandronsky
March 30, 2008
Meet Jesus Iowa. He’s a teen from Oaxaca whose family moves to a
small Iowa town. Athlete and worker, Jesus leaves his home in the U.S. heartland
after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast. That move partly heats
up his community’s fears and hopes in Iowa Terror (Seventh Street Press, 2007),
Mike Palecek’s latest novel.
His narrative voices both echo and skewer the White House of George W. (MD)
Bush and the kind of patriotism it seeks to spread across the U.S. This is an
ambitious and difficult approach. But Palecek pulls it off with his sharp ear
for the everyday language of rural folks swept up in a political and reportorial
culture of apparently endless war for liberty and security. In that respect,
he reminds me a bit of U.S. author Joe Bageant, who has a finger on the working-class
culture of some white folks who live in Virginia and West Virginia.
A former journalist for small Midwest newspapers, Palecek’s grasp of character,
place, and time impresses. In 15 concise and big format chapters, he sketches
intriguing portraits of fictional Iowans as they hang laundry, judge sheep,
and swim, ever keen to orange-coded security alerts to repel the official terrorists,
the non-white Others who are out there threatening the American people.
Along the way, sympathetic images of the hunters and hunted emerge. In Palecek’s
story their dialogue flashes with unintended hilarity, then swoons with a heart-rending
humility. One plot twist features the politics of North America’s first inhabitants,
generations removed from European invasion and dispossession. Who tells past
and present tales of terror matters in the hands of the author, who has done
prison time for being a war resister. He is no arm-chair observer of our times.
In my view, a key virtue of Palecek’s book is to give readers, notably
youth, a fictional entry into critical thinking on peace and war. And to do
this with little pedantry is no small feat in a nation fed a 24/7 capitalist
storm of business and war claptrap. The vibrant color illustrations of four
talented artists — Russell Brutsche, Allison M. Healy, Benjamin Heine and Ian
Ward — illuminate Iowa Terror.
Seth Sandronsky lives and writes in Sacramento.
Source URL: http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/sandronsky300308.html; http://www.newsreview.com/chico/Content?oid=640127;
Michael Wolsey interviewed Palacek on Visibility911 podcast: http://visibility911.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=316911
And another interview with Chris Cook, Gorilla Radio, Vancouver: