Fifty years ago, Eli Saslow’s “Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist” might have been viewed as controversial “New Journalism,” Tom Wolfe’s designation for his own writings and those of a growing number of magazine journalists in the 1960s. They were experimenting with use of fictional techniques in nonfictional prose.
Wolfe employed bizarre punctuation, peculiar spellings and endless paragraphs to approximate the antics of Ken Kesey and his merry band of acid trippers in “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Even more controversial was Truman Capote’s extended quotation of his sources in “In Cold Blood.” Traditional journalists questioned whether Wolfe or Capote had witnessed, committed to memory or taken notes on the experiences or conversations in their works.
And then there were deranged fantasies that Hunter Thompson captured in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” events and experiences Thompson described as occurring while he was under the influence of alcohol mixed with other uppers and downers. This may have been “gonzo journalism” but few traditional newspaper editors accepted Thompson’s reality.
Fifty years later, Saslow writes “Rising Out of Hatred,” a nonfictional account of Derek Black’s slow escape from his white nationalist family and the racist, far-right views he shared with family, high profile Klan leaders, far-right activists and millions of fellow travelers guided by Derek’s and his father Don Black’s Stormfront.com online radio station.
Saslow, a Washington Post staff writer who resides in Portland, introduces himself in an opening chapter as the omniscient narrator throughout this account, explaining how he obtained the cooperation of Derek, Don and KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. In the final chapter, he acknowledges the cooperation of Allison, Derek’s liberal girlfriend, and others close to Derek at Florida’s liberal New College.
In the 300 pages intervening between Saslow’s beginning and ending authorial intrusions, he maintains his omniscient narrative voice that allows readers to sympathize with the earnest, sweet, kind, intelligent, racist and xenophobic Derek Black as he struggles to remain a model student while being attacked, threatened and berated by liberal students hostile to his presence at this small college.
Whether traditional newspapers still exist today has become arguable in the past 20 years. Certainly magazine-style feature articles have replaced much of the objective content wire services and staff reporters once provided. Now, articles lure readers with complex descriptive, narrative and scene-setting introductions. Eli Saslow has mastered the language of fiction and convincingly applied it to this linkage of white nationalism to the 2016 presidential election.
Saslow won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 2014 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017. In “Rising Out of Hatred” Saslow is blessed with a great plotline that he thoroughly exploits in the most moving and frightening piece of nonfiction I have read since “In Cold Blood.” Allison, the sensitive daughter of a liberal mother from all-white (96.3%) Mentor, Ohio, meets Derek, whose white-nationalist father started the largest racist internet community and whose godfather is Klan leader David Duke, making a powerful story of love and redemption.
Now a couple of reminders about Library events.
The library’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon takes place Wednesday, April 3, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Community Hall, 207 N. Spruce St., If planning to attend this luncheon, please RVSP the library office at 503-436-1391 or info@cannonbeachlibrary by March 27.
Peter Lindsey—author of “Comin’ in Over the Rock: A Storyteller’s History of Cannon Beach” and “Just Movin’ the Water Around: Commercial Trolling with the Cannon Beach Dory Fleet”—will read from and sign his books from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m., Friday, Apr. 5, at the library, 131 N. Hemlock St., as part of this year’s “Get Lit at the Beach” sponsored by the Tolovana Arts Colony.
Finally, spring has arrived, along with spring-cleaning rituals. Volunteers, who sort donated used books to include in the library collection or price for resale, now are preparing for the Memorial Day Rare and Used Book Sale and the July Fourth Weekend Book Sale.
While clearing shelves and closets this spring, why not let your nonprofit library find new homes for unwanted books? Volunteers encourage visitors and residents, preparing their houses for the vacation season, to donate unwanted books to the library.