Book Review: The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley (2006)

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

A few weeks back, I “read” (read: listened to) Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006) – on audiobook. Since he made little mention of non-human animals in the book, initially I wasn’t going to bother posting the review here. But, lo and behold, prior to posting the review on Amazon, I discovered that Brinkley does discuss the plight of “pets” during and after Hurricane Katrina. For some undetermined reason, however, all but one (that I counted – and believe you me, I was counting!) reference to non-human animals was cut from the audio version of the book. Given that the book’s 768 pages were watered down into five discs totaling just under six hours of narration, much was cut, but. Still – weird, very weird.

The end result: while animal advocates will probably be frustrated by the audio version’s lack of attention to non-human animals (who, let’s face it, played a key role in the disaster, even if you don’t believe that they’re worthy of consideration on their own), methinks y’all (we’all?) might be happier with the unabridged print version.

Hey, it’s on my wishlist.

The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley (2006)

768 pages in 6 hours: What was lost in narration?

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I initially “read” the audiobook version of Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a chronicling of the events leading up to and following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall(s) on the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Brinkley, a historian and New Orleans resident, offers a level-headed assessment of the local, state and federal government’s preparations for and response to what would ultimately be the single deadliest (and one of the costliest) hurricane in the United States’ history.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, and Brinkley serves up slices of humble pie to everyone from President George W. Bush, to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Director Michael Brown, with an extra-heaping plate of fail saved especially for NOLA Mayor Ray Nagin. Brinkley also points out the failings of local police officers, government bureaucracy at the local, state and federal levels – he even finds fault with city founder Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, who initially chose the site of New Orleans and refused to abandon the city, even after a hurricane destroyed most of the existing structures, only four years into the city’s brief existence.

Brinkley also praises those who rose to the occasion: meteorologists who tried in vain to alert local and state officials to the impending disaster; police and military officers who performed their duties with bravery and compassion; neighbors who rescued one another when the government would not (or could not); and citizens the world over who rushed in to help displaced Gulf Coast residents. As infuriating as are the tales of government incompetence and corruption, these individual narratives of goodwill are equally inspiring.

(More below the fold…)