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When Kate begins disappearing for whole nights, arriving home exhausted and filthy at sunrise, when WUTs subsidies fail to increase production at the plant and his report on oil production elicits an angry visit from the home office, the world WiU has constructed, in which he is the noble bureaucrat and the Africans are passive and complacent, is exposed as myth. EventuaUy the locals discover WiU and Kate's connection to Pers (who local lore remembers as the Road Builder); then the truth about Pers arrives in the person of a mysterious American named Boris. As soldiers approach from the cast, WUTs friends in the Kivila vaUey show him in dramatic fashion that they're not passive; they're survivors. "Epic" is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but rarely do the works purported to be epics fulfill the promise of the genre: to portray great human themes through the lives of individual characters . The Road Builder, finally, is a book about WiU, Kate and Pers, Placide, the Chef de Poste, the Nurse and Ndosi. Themes emerge effortlessly from a well-crafted, wellwritten story. If Hershenow's prose occasionaUy turns purple, his descriptions create a pulsating portrait of central Africa's climate, landscape and beauty while giving vivid insight into the dignity and desperation of the people who live there. (WJ) Seek: Reportsfrom the Edges of America and Beyond by Denis Johnson Harper Collins, 2001, 238 pp., $24 Seek is poet and noveUst Denis Johnson's latest addition to his already formidable list of pubUcations , a list that includes the critically praised novels Already Dead and Jesus' Son. The volume is a collection of journalistic essays concerning, as the title suggests, people and ideologies on the periphery of the collective American consciousness. AU of the pieces, which have appeared over the past decade in various magazines and journals, among them Esquire and The Paris Review, are factually responsible yet highly evocative treatments of their subjects. Johnson begins and ends his volume with two essays that address the complex and violent struggle for poUtical control in Liberia: "The CivU War in HeU" and "The SmaU Boys Unit"; the latter is probably the best piece in the book. "CivU War" deals mostly with Prince Johnson, leader of one of several competing factions for control of Liberia, and gives a lively account of his headquarters, which, as the author describes it, is more Uke a nightclub where Prince Johnson plays and sings the blues for his carousing troops than like a mUitary command outpost. A sense of forthcoming defeat for Johnson resonates through the inappropriately jovial atmosphere of his headquarters, a defeat confirmed in "Small Boys," in which the author describes his own difficult journey through the Ivory Coast and Liberia to write a profile on Charles Taylor, whose revolutionary faction seems to be emerging to dominate Liberia. On the way to meet Taylor, the author struggles to adapt his Western attitudes to the slower pace ofAfrican culture and witnesses the brutal torture of a young and 208 ยท The Missouri Review apparently innocent man by Taylor's adolescent soldiers. "An Anarchist's Guide to SomaUa" examines simUarly violent SomaU poUtical unrest and describes the rural SomaU people as they trek across the desert in smaU, armed groups doing what they can to avoid each other. The war-torn capital city of Mogadishu is controUed by General Aidid, who promises "security, rehabiUtation, resettlement of displaced people, development and elections," celebrated Western ideals that Johnson suggests wiU not materialize in a land where people "got along for centuries on their own" without Western intervention. Johnson's most impressive achievement in Seek is his demonstration that the sort of otherworldliness characteristic of the civil wars of Third World countries is present to different degrees and in different forms in the United States. "Run, Rudolph, Run" concerns the federal government 's fruitless search for Eric Robert Rudolph, who has been accused of the bombing at the '96 Olympics in Atlanta as well as the bombings of a famUy planning clinic and a gay nightclub. Like the Liberian and Somali warlords, Rudolph, who has disappeared into the forests of western North Carolina, is either...


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pp. 208-209
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