A Montanan's Outlook

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Non-Fiction Text Review for Hella Nation

Evan Wright’s book Hella Nation centers around Wright’s experiences with unique groups of people around the country. Wright’s purpose in writing this book was to find what he considered to be the “lost tribes of America” and report on their unique lifestyles.

Wright uses his skills as a reporter to infiltrate into the lives of these outsiders and tries to understand their nature and their actions. The book is about his experiences with groups ranging from sex workers/taxi-dance halls to Hollywood directors.

Evan Wright is an American-born writer who has worked for Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone reporting on subcultures. He graduated from John Hopkins University and Vassar College. His first writing gig was interviewing a South African Political leader, though the job did not pay.

After his stints in non-paying jobs, Wright was able to begin his career of immersion reporting. While immersing himself into the lives of different subcultures, he began to write long features based on what he experienced.

This experience led him to be able to immerse himself into the cultures for the book Hella Nation. His career in journalism prepared him for his authorship and gave his book a more real, tangible feeling to it.

Wright wrote Hella Nation in order to display the subcultures of the United States in their raw state. He wrote this book to introduce to his readers the differences in American life and the complexities of those in what are sometimes deemed “countercultures.”

Wright’s book is meant to make the reader think. He has specifically designed the book to lay out different ‘characters’ chapter by chapter that explores untamed portions of American life.

Wright used multiple different tactics in order to write this book. Most importantly, and most often, he used methods of participating and observation. Within the first chapter of the book, Wright makes it clear that the story of the Fifth Platoon Delta Company was told through his perspective and observations.

Wright immersed himself into the surroundings of the people he wrote about, and then he watched them. He listened to their vernacular and described their hygiene. Everything from the way their hair was parted to the amount of alcohol they consumed a day to their amount of times they could say ‘fuck’ in a day was recorded.

In the chapter “Dancing With a Stranger,” Wright uses participation to understand his subjects best. He chooses to dance with the ladies in each taxi-club in order to learn about who they are as people and who they are as clients.

This is one of the spots where Wright’s participation becomes crucial to understanding the people of the story. In order to learn about each taxi-club, Wright must interact with females from each spot. This leads to his direct participation.

These two methods, along with brief interviews from people in the subcultures or outside sources, make up the majority of the book. This creates subjectivity in the story because these characters and experiences become a part of Wright’s life.

Personally, I enjoyed the set-up of the book. Each chapter was a new story dedicated to a new group which kept the book interesting. My favorite chapter is still “Dance With a Stranger” because it was interesting to hear about the different levels of dancing and intimacy that are offered for money in certain cities.

This book has caused me to think a little deeper about unique cultures within American. Even though they “don’t fit in,” they are what help make America different. They are the groups that set America apart.  

1 Comment

  1. Maybe this will help you with the “college culture” assignment. What is the best way to engage with your own culture, do you suppose? There are a couple of points where I would like more details/examples, but overall pretty well done, Mari.

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