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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Why I Left America

John Arnone, an American ex-pat resident in Yasothon, is well known to anyone who reads The Nation newspaper, being one of the more prolific letter writers. John, it seems, is never short of an opinion or three, so it was with much interest that I opened his self-published book “Why I left America” (ISBN 978-974-7216-66-0, released July 2007).
It does not take many pages before you understand that author Arnone is standing politically somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. And it is also obvious that there is much pent-up emotion. By page four he admits that “chapters of my writing contain a lot of anger”. And then some!
John Arnone is certainly not without an opinion, be that marriage, bureaucracy, families, movies, sports, Bill Clinton, O.J. Simpson or Princess Diana. He certainly does not espouse land rights for gay black whales! By page 174 he is describing himself appearing as a racist homophobic misogynist! However, he does explain that whilst holding opinions, he does not pretend to be offering proof. Nor does he offer any solutions. But what he has done is state quite categorically just why he left America.
Where the book loses some of its impact for me, is in the updates to 2007 that are interspersed with his original writings which were done in 1998. Here he tries to show how life is for him now, happily married, children, living up-country. These aspects of his life pertain to today, and not really “why I left America”. He also manages to wind himself up with his anti-anti-smoking campaigns. That he wishes to be a smoker is his decision, and the readers should not be punished for it. Even if the Thai government owns the Thai Tobacco Monopoly.
At only 175 pages, it is not a huge tome, but at B. 325 is not a huge impost either. Much of the details of life in America that he disliked so much can also be applied to the UK, Europe and Australia, so many ex-pats will relate to the book, but he does tend towards right wing rants, much in the mold of firebrand British politician Enoch Powell or equally vociferous Australian politician Pauline Hansen, neither of whom actually managed to change their respective societies. And so it will be for John Arnone, I fear.
In one chapter he mentions the perceptive (and very right wing) writer Ayn Rand, and that came as no surprise, looking at John Arnone’s starboard inclination as well. And what did happen in Atlas Shrugged? The principal characters ran away from their respective cultures and attempted to make a new one in their own valley. The final chapter has one of the characters, John Galt, saying “We are on strike. This is the strike of the men of the mind, Miss Taggart... We are on strike against those who believe that one man must exist for the sake of another…”
John Arnone has not only gone on strike, he has stricken out at his past and the society that raised him. But unlike Atlas Shrugged, John Arnone will not be the catalyst for its destruction.