cover image Bloodbath Nation

Bloodbath Nation

Paul Auster. Grove, $26 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6045-4

Novelist Auster (Burning Boy) and photographer Spencer Ostrander take a powerful look at the causes and consequences of gun violence in America. Interweaving tragic stories and eye-opening statistics (40,000 Americas are killed by guns every year) with haunting, black-and-white photographs of mass shooting sites (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.) after the media scrums that cover such “grisly spectacles” have departed, Auster explores the historical and cultural forces that have made America “the most violent country in the Western world” and reflects on his own experiences with gun violence, including the family trauma caused by his grandmother’s killing of his grandfather in 1919. Elsewhere, Auster sketches the psychological profiles of mass killers, noting that the Aurora, Colo., multiplex shooter, who played loud techno music through his headphones during his assault, had “nerves so delicately strung” he couldn’t “bear to listen to the clamor and the screams” of his victims. For Auster, who casts doubt on the likelihood of judicial or legislative remedies, the end to the gun debate will only occur when “both sides want it, and in order for that to happen, we would first have to conduct an honest, gut-wrenching examination of who we are and who we want to be as a people going forward into the future.” This trenchant account goes a long way toward making that possible. Photos. (Jan.)