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Thursday July 31, 2014
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Derek Green

 

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In the haunting "Road Train," an American journalist hitches a ride on one of the gigantic trucks that haul things north across the Western Australian desert. He wants to write a story about these fabled giant trucks, the largest in the world, that travel at top speeds along gravel roads and can take more than a mile to stop. As always in these international stories, Green is quick but spectacular with landscape description: "The sky, unhindered by cloud or tree, had a brute quality, immense and distant. Refracted light scattered into fire-ridged spectra in the cab's windshield, revealing the sun for what it was — a lonely fire raging immeasurably above." The Mason Group appears only as the owner of the trucking company, yet the need to move goods rapidly across the planet becomes the driving ethic of the story, radically changing even the naive journalist in ways he had never imagined possible.

In the last story of New World Order, "Almost Home," the protagonist — a journalist returning after five years of work in Asia — is seated on the long trans-Pacific flight beside a loud, overweight man who sells refrigerator parts. She clearly detests him, and finally tells him so. Oddly enough, this doesn't seem to bother him in the least. In the end, after they have landed in Los Angeles, "she wondered whatever in this strange world could possibly make her feel close to a man like that." But the story takes place on August 10, 2001, a month and a day before she would have her answer. And before the New World Order, if it existed at all, collapses under the weight of its own illusions. Derek Green has given us an exquisite look at a moment and an attitude that disappeared those seven years ago yet still seems to color a good deal of our national self-image.

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