Two books survey the ongoing psychic damage from Hurricane Katrina
by Dave Eggers
$24.00 List Price
It has now been four years since the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina breeched the levees in and around New Orleans, producing the most widespread destruction that a major American city has suffered in the past century. At the time—nearly one year into George W. Bush's second term—the woeful government response appeared to distill the worst features of GOP small-government ideology, while dramatizing Bush's seeming indifference to the fortunes of the black, the poor, and city-dwelling Americans. Today, however, memories of Katrina and its aftermath have faded, and the moral of the story has gravitated into the familiar orbit of America's fatalistic view of urban affairs and government action—a regrettable study in civic mismanagement, combined with near-epidemic rates of violent crime.
In very different compasses, Ethan Brown's Shake the Devil Off and Dave Eggers's Zeitoun dispel that pall of resignation. Each book engages the personal ironies that attended Katrina's wake. Both are accounts of Katrina holdouts—storm survivors who disregarded mandatory evacuation orders from Mayor Ray Nagin and FEMA. Both are sensational chronicles of the way the storm frayed family relations and disfigured individual psyches—but both also serve to restore the broader sense of rage summoned by the no less dramatic spectacle of a national government forsaking its poorest citizens at a time of devastating need.
Shake the Devil Off recounts a sensation in the most lurid sense of the word: On October 17, 2006, Zackery Bowen, a twenty-eight-year-old part-time bartender and grocery-delivery
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