Methland Revisited: An Interview w/ Nick Reding
September 16, 2010
Nick Reding's Methland balances a focus on the effect of meth in Oelwein, Iowa with the larger sociological issues that make it possible for meth to devastate communities all across the country. It was on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Book Review and has gone through seven hardcover printings. In addition to rampant praise, Methland has also engendered more than its fair share of anger from the residents of Oelwein and elsewhere.
Recently Nick Reding handled a few questions via email on the aftermath of Methland.
Do you still receive threats for writing Methland?
Last spring I was in Oelwein with a movie director that the BBC hired to make a movie out of Methland. Whether that will happen or not is a mystery of course, but there has been talk that if it does, the movie might be filmed right in town, which would inject a very significant amount of revenue into Oelwein in a fairly short period. Let's just say that this trip was the first time since the book came out that I was in a bar in town, and had strangers coming up to shake my hand--as opposed to telling me what a jerk I am.
Can you do good journalism without making people mad?
Only if no one reads it! Honestly, I don't think you can do anything publicly without making people mad.
Are you still in contact with anyone in Oelwein? Have there been any significant changes since the book was published?
I am. Nathan called while I was typing the answer to your first question, in fact. I consider him and Clay to be good friends--we talk once a month or so, sometimes more. Mayor Murphy and I are friends, as well, though we don't speak to one another often. The town has really continued to blossom since the book was first published. The onus is on education and luring small companies that will help them diversify their economy and make it more nimble. They've done this wonderfully, adding about 400 jobs in the last 18 months in a couple different light manufacturing ventures. Plus, they have the best microbrew I've ever tasted: Hub City. It's run by a father and his two sons in a converted pig shed outside of town. Have the porter, it's ridiculously good.
Are you working on any new projects?
I am. If Methland is in some ways about the 40-year decline of the rural Midwest--and of the Midwest in general--then the next book is about what the region will look like 40 years from now. What places will make it, and why? Which ones won't? All of the forces that have come to bear on Oelwein have come to bear on the region's cities--Saint Louis, Detroit, etc. It's just not quite as obvious, and in some cases meth isn't just the right metaphor. But, the symptoms and the disease are the same. So: What'll happen? I have no idea. But, I have three years and counting to figure it out.
Nick Reding is also the author of The Last Cowboys At the End of the World.