Thursday, November 5, 2009

R. Alan Wight reviews my book

American Colossus represents a unique weave of important, but often unconnected threads of American Imperialism. From waterways and railroad monopolies to oil conglomerates and Cargill, Brown discusses the evolution of the modern American grain transportation and storage system. His poetic narrative illustrates how the American Colossus (the grain trade) is used as an economic force to export the American diet and culture, along with our particular form of hegemonic capitalism. This project on the grain “system” of market dumping and local farmer destabilization that threatens our planets ecological stability goes hand in hand with the work of prominent authors such as Dr, Vandana Shiva, Michael Pollen, and Bill McKibben.

Brown walks the reader through the history of the grain elevator. He poses important questions about the classification of these hybrid “building-machines,” traces the many architectural and industrial innovations brought together to “fire proof the tinderbox,” compares and contrasts the architectural and systematic differences of America to Europe, and does this all by neatly structruing his arguments on the shoulders of such renowned historians as R. Banham and W. Cronon. Also, Brown challenges existing historical works for their accuracy regarding pictures and names of grain elevators.

In addition, this research uses poetry, cultural mythology, and religion, with a hint of autoethnographic material to relate the beginnings of our American Colossus to the reader. Brown’s voice can be heard loud and clear has he describes his first hand experiences exploring the now silent, hybrid building-machines of Buffalo, NY. From the huge grain elevators admits our concrete metropolises, to the skyscrapers of the plains, to the thousands upon thousands of local nodes spread across this vast continent; Brown uncovers one of the foundations of our Modern American Empire.

-- R. Alan Wight M.A., Sociologist, University of Cincinnati