Review of ‘Serpentrope’, Angle: Journal of Poetry in English, by David Davis

Norman Ball
White Violet Press, 2013

serpentrope1If I told you that most of the poems in Norman Ball’s Serpentrope are metered and rhymed, with four-fifths of them sonnets, you’d probably get the wrong idea. So we’ll consider that a bit later. Instead, let’s begin with the eclectic nature of the book.

I believe Serpentrope is the only poetry book published to date that contains poems on the topics of: Civil War battle fatigue; formal poetry in its relation to a famous wardrobe malfunction; and Aleister Crowley’s Cult of Lam. The poems often display a love of detail—historic and current—as in this excerpt from ‘Observations of a Civil War Surgeon As Night Falls’:

Cattail and catgut duel within the marsh
that clads the Susquehanna east of York.
Two minstrels, facing off, interpret harsh
conditions with guitars. The river’s fork

accompanies with stiff, percussive reeds.

Ball’s poems stem from an obvious intelligence, and that seems appropriate. Often they mimic the way that neurophysiologists characterize our thinking process: as the firing up of nodes of meaning that excite other nodes in a sort of spreading activation, until a whole pattern of nodes—perhaps previously unconnected—fires together, leading to new connections and novel insights. None of this, according to the theory, is sentential. Sentences come later. This mental commotion underlying conscious thought is echoed in Ball’s poetry in passages such as this from the poem ‘Formal Spat ‘:

… One dares

not ride a colleague’s time-worn rhyme. Left-hand feet
may dangle. Diction may rankle, stubborn
with vague intent. Relax. Sonnets can’t meet
the rent with a metered stick…

Or this, from ‘It Was A Totter From The Start’:

The duty steeped itself in stand-up time,
a rope to drag the day upon itself
with busying to coax the febrile mind
from thought, to book, to browse, to empty shelf.

Many of Ball’s poems employ puns, allusions, and apparently unrelated content. The result is that they often excite neurons in our minds that, at least for me, are firing together for the first time. This type of mental fireworks can be fatiguing, and it may be that the best way to read Serpentrope is to limit oneself to two or three poems a day.

I may have mentioned that Ball’s poems take on a wide variety of subjects. Serpentrope includes poems centered on: the cartoon character Dilbert rendered in a Hilbertian sonnet; dropping poems by airplane on Afghan villagers in wartime; and ballerinas with bulimia. And often the poems render their subjects in witty, punning, allusive lines. Like these in an excerpt from the poem about Dilbert, the cartoon engineer working in a cubicle in a large corporation:

 … Dilbert stirs this pot with lead

balloons. His poker-face is barely drawn
by nine. Outside the box, Big Bosses rake
trapped miners over coals while overhead
a phosphor-fingered entity has sawn

animal spirits squarely down to size —
three taut frames. Dilbert’s zeppelin subsides.

Of course, like real-world explosions, explosions of meaning can do damage if not controlled, and Ball is an explosives expert. These poems are nearly all contained in meter and rhyme, and now that you have a feel for the content, it can more fully be revealed that most of them are in sonnet form. The interplay between the subject matter, the allusions, and the forms adds another dimension to the experience of reading Ball’s work — a dimension that I believe elevates the wild content by the mere fact of being under such control.

Given the eclectic nature of Serpentrope (I should mention that it contains poems on the subjects of: belly fat; the fate of a member of the band REO Speedwagon; and the turbulent life of the prophet Isaiah), it should be noted that the book also contains some recurring themes.

The most explicit is that of the snake Ouroboros, a topic treated in several of the poems and the subject of an essay included as an appendix to the book. The image of the snake with its tail in its mouth, sometimes curled protectively around the earth and sometimes a part of it, has, according to Ball’s essay, fascinated him for years. In the poem ‘Ouroboros,’ Ball portrays the snake in a menacing way:

 …The proper name’s Hell-

that cool, wrapped bitch— trite circle. Let her clasp
sweet tail in teeth. All gray divides sell
foot-in-mouth diversions. I will have
my foe just-so. Discrete obsession. Damn

all demons who arrive. The golden calf,
zirconia stalking horse, is lamb

I dressed for slaughter…

But it is not always so. Sometimes the snake is a hoop snake rolling along, and sometimes it is a snake completing a cosmic circle.

Another theme in the book is that of human relations. Serpentrope does not contain a love poem as I understand them, but there are multiple renderings of soured or difficult relations between couples. The concluding lines from the poem ‘Endure’ are one example:

… We gratify
what synapses are lit. Hullabaloo
is all that floats above—mere atmosphere.
What anchors? That’s a fixity less clear.

The reader of Serpentrope will soon see that Ball is no sentimentalist.

Poetry itself forms another theme in the book. There are multiple poems on the topic of poetry, a theme that first appears in the inscription that begins the book:

Teach a man to write poetry
and he will starve forever.

Ball begins the poem ‘Twickenham Stadium’ by stating ‘I’m not so much a poet as a wit,’ and then proceeds to compare himself and his work to the career of the American baseball player Harmon Killebrew, a Hall of Famer who, nonetheless, had some years with low numbers of runs batted in. Poets writing poems about poetry can be trying, but Ball pulls it off—in this case, with extended comparisons between his work and baseball. Let’s consider two techniques that I particularly admire in Ball’s work. The first is the clever enjambment, and the second is the killer concluding couplet. One of my favorite poems in the book is the sonnet ‘At the Funeral of a Former High School Crush,’ which begins with the wonderful enjambment

I memorized her purple halter top
to bottom…

The poem then describes time shared together in physics class, and concludes with this couplet that brings us back to the funeral of the title:

They found her with her head arrayed in glass
flung forward like a weightless, prescient gas.

I love that couplet. And many others in Ball’s book. One more example. In the poem ‘Slither,’ that begins with a quote from Coleridge referencing Ouroboros, the narrator learns that a walk with his lover is actually her way of finding a suitable place to terminate their relationship. She has chosen the bookstore where they met to end things in Ouroboran fashion, and the poem itself concludes:

… All along,
this princess had availed a serpent-guide.
I was the frog to her formaldehyde.

Serpentrope is a book of formal poems that really doesn’t feel like one. It treats a wide variety of topics (I should mention that Serpentrope contains poems on: the antediluvian apostasies of G. H. Pember; the difficulties in Ireland; and the nature of testimony in the aftermath of the mortgage meltdowns). There are wonderful gems, couplets, and full poems that sparkle and explode. Serpentrope is a virtuoso performance by a poet of wide-ranging intelligence whose careful use of form adds considerable impact to his work.

–David Davis

Review of ‘Serpentrope’, Angle: Journal of Poetry in English, by David Davis

Troubled Water: Quietism in the Age of Performance

(an abridged version of this essay first appeared in the Fall, 2014 Trinacria)

by Norman Ball

 darkened rooms of summerIn Jared Carter’s latest collection of poetry The Darkened Rooms of Summer, the poem ‘Picking Stone’ is prefaced with the following passage from Emerson’s ‘Self-Reliance’:

“Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

Carter’s poetry conducts the latent convictions of the earth with unwavering fealty. Latent conviction suggests oblique paradox as does a room darkened by summer (also, the “dark shining” in ‘Scryer’ and the “harsh glare billowing darkness” in ‘The Shriving’). The grand, ineluctable cycles that move across the earth, and in equal measure through Carter’s poetry, extinguish their ends in their beginnings. Everywhere, light appears out of the darkness, or does one interpenetrate the other? Both. Stones are regurgitated to the surface like bundled mysteries. Were they there last planting season? Yes and no. Each encroaches upon, or drains from, the other as though through a great quantum sieve. One well imagines how fevered entrances and sweeping bows—all that performative mumbo-jumbo—would overwhelm what arrives to Carter’s still eye as a, “…broken heave of light and dark” (from ‘Phoenix’). Animated readings seize the eyeballs in the room yet banish the clearing. Through it all, the world forever adulterates and falls, mostly onto the shoulders of those who labor, in brief intervals, atop its primordial cycle.

Carter is a contemplative poet, yes. But in the spirit of Wordworth’s wise passiveness (there are powers/Which of themselves our minds impress/That we can feed this mind of ours,/In wise passiveness – Expostulation and Reply ll.21-24). This contemplative state is metaphorically expressed in ‘Mississinewa Reservoir at Winter Pool’. Here, the townspeople, ‘as though/having risen from a deep sleep/and come at last to a place/no longer having anything in it/except themselves.’

Quietism has fallen on loud, hard times. No one wants to take a silent bullet and invoke the clearing. Every day across America, poetry jumpstarts a bright new career in readings. Ill-suited ovations are the rage. Bowling night hardly stands a chance. In ‘The Oddfellows’ Waiting Room at Glencove Cemetery’, Carter begs to differ. A resolute listener, he continues to hold the thin, quiet line: ‘There must always be a place like this/where the dimensions collapse inwardly/ like a telescope you slip into your pocket.’ This is a beautiful image echoing again the Emerson quote; a telescope, tasked with mapping the outer reaches of the universe, collapsing into and inward, to a place where the poet stands waiting.

A heretical notion from the earliest times, quietism was formalized as such by Pope Innocent XI in 1687. Thomas Merton referred to it as an inert ‘spiritual vacuum’. The Protestant work ethic was equally hostile to a movement that rejected faith’s role as a catalyst for striving, wrestling and capital formation. The fundamental objection was that a faith that lacked vigor and purpose in the world risked falling into listlessness and solipsism. Soon enough, God’s voice would be shouted down by the clatter of railroads and later the ubiquitous presence of handheld devices.

There’s even less escaping the world today. Poems arrive hyperlinked to position papers. Recently, poetry critic and identity politician Ron Silliman accused quietism (or as poetasters like to call it, The School of Quietude) of a sly tactical reticence aimed at “denial of self-identification” and a refusal to be named. State your business or lay down your pen. Resisting industrial barcodes is, for the poetry confab, a first-order sin of omission. Poets are expected today to ‘splain themselves on the way to a good internecine squabble. Wearing their schools on their sleeves, they hoist grievances with a gusto that would make Robert Frost’s politicians blanch.

Well offstage, heads down and dimly lit, Carter’s people are forever lifting bricks and stones, digging up roots, exhuming the dead, but not with the isolating despair of Sisyphus. Here is a passage from ‘Ginseng’:

But all of them together— hunters,

thieves, those who keep the old ways—

pass it from hand to hand along

a chain of those who know exactly

where it is going, what it is worth—

The continental malaise of self-absorption has never reached Mississinewa County. Carter’s people accept their sublimated roles as momentary caretakers of the land—from prior hands, into future hands. To paraphrase Frost, life is notable mostly for going on, albeit with a flitting cast of characters, which is another way of saying time has a way of standing still:

Nothing done well ever ends,

she said, touching my hand, not even land

built up one act at a time, so that all

that went before, and after, still waits

there. –from ‘Poem Written on a Line from the Walam Olum’

We lift stones at our appointed times, then drop them for the earth to reclaim, swallow up, to be expunged anew, rediscovered and lifted once again (‘the inmost in due time becomes the outmost’). This human bucket brigade treads a cosmic circle that may well harbor a far-off, though ultimately inhuman, coherence. Coleridge’s tail-eating serpent meets Eliot’s still-point in ‘Mourning Dove’ where, “all of their singing is circular, and comes back to the same stillness.” In ‘The Undertaker’, we find a similar acquiescence to a cycle larger than one generation’s labors:

Each man slowly recognized, like a combination of lost numbers,

that men younger than themselves had labored here,

grown old, and were gone, who had lifted this same earth,

who had put in what they now took out

As for this moment, for you and for me, the mind is a stone to be rolled away from the entrance of the soul. Only then can man and earth enjoy unmediated communion. The ubiquitous arrowheads, stones with a fashioned vengeance, are scattered about the landscape like long-discarded arguments “dropped from an empty sky”. At times even the dead must be lifted in order to deliver their stillness to higher ground. The new reservoir promises to round all edges. Who will save the dead? Few congregants are up to the task, as the undertaker soon learns:

Fell overcome with heat, one did, the first day;

another struck by the sun; two more threw down their tools

and walked away. The few who stayed till the job was done

rode together in the back of Sefe’s pickup each quitting time

to a tavern on the highway”—from ‘The Undertaker’

What happens when self-negating labor is abandoned for the seductive rush of slogans, movements, grand causes and petty, indulgent feuds, in short the usual “bed of fabrications” (from ‘Shaking the Peonies’)? In ‘Phoenix’, we find two soldiers in borrowed Napoleonic uniforms, trapped in a generational family feud not of their making, in a Shawnee war not of their bidding. Adding to the worldly layers of confusion and “alienated majesty”, they find themselves comrades in the same war. Seeking to resolve these bewildering allegiances, they end up fighting one another to the death. In perhaps the most comprehensively emblematic image in the collection (we have the water, the rocks, the rising darkness and the failing light), the two men venture down to the hollow with the General’s consent where a “dark presence/rose up— a basin of troubled water, seething/and boiling, surging over heaps of stones/catching the last light through the trees”.

In ‘Picking Stone’, these men seem to appear again, this time as boys, “still in baseball uniforms from a game at the Legion” Later they, “pry with an iron bar against a great gray rock. They will not quit, they begin to roar as they bear down on it.”

Those closest to the earth do not bear uniforms well; or else the organizing principle becomes, “…so smudged you can’t tell what army” they’re in (from ‘Covered Bridge’). Uniforms are regimenting colors that march us away from ourselves. The uniform du jour in poetry these days is the performance poet. In his struggle to be heard, this thoroughly modern bard finds his public voice only to lose his vocation. After all, his job is not to linger, but to vacate the clearing his contemplation ushers through. The limelight eludes the proper poet by design.

Carter’s quietude is a conscious and sustained act, hardly a feeble acquiescence. He resists polluting the stillness with gratuitous detail, resigning himself with poetic fatalism to Keats’ negative capabilities, that ‘part of your mind that cannot hurry, that has never learned to decide’ (from ‘Mississinewa County Road’). Forbearance is the bright shadow that guides his pen.

The poet advertises himself only on the rarest occasions. In ‘At the Sign-Painters’, he extolls the Depression-era sign painters who stoically accept being observed at their labors. We sense the poet’s calling slowly forming in a boy’s mind. The words are prefigured, waiting to be filled out with whispers. But no speeches please. The universe entrusts its signs to the artisan who stands, in ready quietude, brush in-hand:

for the slow sweep and whisper

of the brush— liked seeing the ghost letters in pencil

gradually filling out, fresh and wet and gleaming, words

forming out of all that darkness, that huge disorder.

Contemplatives are particularly maddening because they eschew textual impartations from ‘higher authorities’, be they clergymen or self-appointed poetry critics. At least meditation involves meditating upon something: a prayer, a papal bull, the new Tom Cruise movie, a political manifesto. The arrangers of the world seek indoctrinated readers, not divine listeners. In the absence of doctrinaires, the sway of earthly power is loosened. French Quietist Jeanne Marie Guyon called it ‘loosening the stays’. Or as Carter says in ‘The Shriving’, ‘‘Things got in the way of what he saw and heard.”

I can detect no earthly authority to which Jared Carter’s poetry answers, except perhaps the earth itself. No sooner did I fancy him brushing against Shaker sensibilities in Indiana, his lifelong home and the locale for most of these poems, than I fell across ‘The Believers’ inscribed to “Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky” with appearances no less, from Mother Ann Lee, the “endless chain” and the “narrow path”.

There is, in his poetry, Mother Ann Lee’s ‘retirement’ from opinion and argument into the unitive state of divine contemplation. When the nervous chatter stops, the clearing is allowed and the universe bursts forth. While nature can be chronicled for the labors it performs beneath our feet, we are here not to move mountains but to occasionally move our dead to higher ground. The mind feeds nothing. Carter’s poems cannot be willed into existence. Rather, they find him at his workbench, bristling with craft and emptied of polemic.

This is a sprawling collection, nearly 200 pages, that assembles poems from Carter’s first five books. I confess to approaching this task with great trepidation, knowing I could never do the volume anywhere near full justice. For instance, I have barely touched upon his metrical verse and his astonishingly unlabored villanelles. Instead, I have kept things to where my own fascinations seemed to gravitate, mostly, as it turns out, in the earlier work. That would be stones, arrowheads, borrowed uniforms, adulterated light and the elevated dead. I note his latest work favors compression. I prefer the unhurried eccentricity of his longer lines. In the main, this poetry moves across the earth with understated majesty. The ultimate testament to craft is the poet’s polite absence. I applaud Carter for leaving well enough alone.

Troubled Water: Quietism in the Age of Performance

Book Review: Internet Police: How Crime Went Online and the Cops Followed (by Nate Anderson)

This book review appeared previously at Pop Matters

reviewed by Norman Ball

In a global economy parched for growth and a buying public stretched for boots-on-the-ground mall time, progressively invasive online protocols promise to brook fewer and fewer complaints. Soon, if not already, online commerce will be deemed too big to fail. We will be asked to throw our cellular particulars into the fray, and you know what? We’ll hand over scraped skin cells like the big wussies we are. Hey Patrick Henry, you wanna job or not?

internet popo

Recently, I put a question to the CIO of a large financial services firm at an Internet privacy group event: When you compound the emotional and financial toll identity theft exacts on affected consumers with the frequency of high-visibility data breaches, is tolerance for online commerce potentially exhaustible? My point was that while the industry can theoretically indulge a spy-vs.-spy ‘attack-counterattack’ dynamic forever (all the while perfecting its defenses with each successive data breach and of course passing the cost onto us) the battle is asymptotic. Final victory is unattainable. We consumers, on the other hand, have but one social security number to give our economy. Life is short. Particulars are few. No one wants to spend every third weekend resurrecting his or her commercial viability. Confirming Upton Sinclair’s claim (well sort of) that it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his IT budget depends upon his not understanding it, this particular CIO smirked before shifting into techno-acronymic mode and rattling off a series of eerily dystopian countermeasures that loom on the horizon: biometrics, fingerprint recognition, retinal scans, contextual ID’s and identity wallets. I suppose in a pinch and for the right product features, there’s always a consumer’s first-born child as genetic proof-positive. Prepare for identity daycare centers, at least for big-ticket items.

Though blessedly less prosaic than what just passed above, my question was, I realized, more rhetorical than reality-based. After all, 2014’s Cyber Black Monday posted record sales, undaunted it would seem by last year’s Target and Neiman Marcus data breaches which potentially compromised tens of millions of identities. In a global economy parched for growth and a buying public stretched for boots-on-the-ground mall time, progressively invasive online protocols promise to brook fewer and fewer complaints. Soon, if not already, online commerce will be deemed too big to fail. We will be asked to throw our cellular particulars into the fray, and you know what? We’ll hand over scraped skin cells like the big wussies we are. Hey Patrick Henry, you wanna job or not?

This is a normalization process. Eddie Bernays’ century-old project of body-snatching citizens and leaving consumers in their wake has yielded the desired hyper-appetitive blobs. Increasingly, our commercial identity is who we are. How sad is that? After all, no one camps out days in advance at a polling booth. We reserve that kind of fervor and conviction for Best Buy in late November. The real crime is our civic lassitude. Watching the beastly display of citizen-buyers wrestling on the floor for the latest plastic gizmo—as though their identities depended on it—brings to mind one thing: Affixing the Beast’s mark will be a protocol that barely registers comment.

In the meantime, this horrible abdication must be policed and democracy kept safe for commerce. To that end, the private sector has been joined mightily by law enforcement agencies. In his recent book The Internet Police: How Crime Went Online and the Cops Followed, (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014), Nate Anderson offers a fascinating primer on how the policing effort has evolved after a rather slow start. Anderson, Deputy Editor at on-line IT journal Ars Technica, offers a series of case studies where the implicit dilemma tends to circle around the old Dionysian-Apollonian vexation: how to balance the anarchic spirit of creative epiphany against the stodgy old control-paradigm of put your hands up and don’t move!  Somehow, evil must be kept at bay without smothering innovation beneath a blanket of thin blue lines. Another crucial point Anderson makes is how the lines have blurred between spy-craft and policing, a development as troubling as it appears inevitable. Police surveillance smacks of something between pre-crime monitoring and voyeurism. My goodness, isn’t there enough post-crime to fight?

Throughout the book, Anderson’s examples range from the utopian to the creepy to the prurient to the jaw-droppingly accessible. Apparently, Needle Park has gone on hiatus. Mail-order heroin is just a click away.

The Sealand/HavenCo story reads like an Internet version of ‘The Mouse That Roared’. Sealand was a circa 2000 attempt at creating a principality in North Sea waters in the cement leg (yes!) of an abandoned WWII naval fort. HavenCo was the data hosting service that operated in Sealand for the purpose of hosting companies with controversial material via a satellite Internet link. Both were established with the loftiest libertarianism in mind. However in short order the principality and the business clashed as the former aspired to act more like a sovereign nation (it even had a prince); HavenCo accused Sealand of nationalizing it while discouraging some of its more off-color customers. One of the last straws for HavenCo was when Sealand embraced international copyright law. Sell-outs! Of course as Anderson points out, the larger world was closing in anyway, all across the globe. HavenCo had overestimated the impregnability of its chilly North Sea platform. Since connectivity implicates at least two loci, in-border crime—albeit originating from international waters—becomes eminently prosecutable when the dodgy content terminates in your precinct’s backyard. It had just taken the authorities a little time to figure their latitudes and crack down. That’s a large theme in the book, by the way: Keystone cops forever shimmying up a learning curve all parties are ascending with the bad guys always one shimmy ahead.

Other essays range from spam king Oleg Nikolaenko who provided much of the impetus for the CAN-SPAM Act to the music industry’s full-on assault on single mom Jammie Thomas for illegal music downloads. As Anderson points out rather sardonically, the “optics weren’t great—faceless coastal corporations against small-town Midwestern mom.” Nonetheless much was riding on the case for the industry. The ensuing trials proved a nightmare for all parties, though the industry ultimately prevailed against Thomas to the tune of $222,000, an amount as yet unpaid.

On the creepier side, there’s the tale of the overly curious webcams controlled by remote access tool (RAT) software, often a malware download which allows unknown voyeurs to control webcams on stranger’s computers, take photos of the victims and send them detailed instructions that clearly indicate the users are being watched. The psychological trauma resulting from this activity can be understandably quite acute; nor is the sense of personal invasion mitigated when it turns out law enforcement is the perpetrator as in the case of one substitute teacher who was arrested after a period of on-line surveillance for allegedly receiving stolen property (her PC). There are also warrant issues as Anderson points out with the FBI’s attempt to judiciously use Computer & Internet Protocol Address Verifier (CIPAV) to monitor the email activity of a suspicious machine. Often these warrants are set for extremely finite periods of time. In fact the FBI’s formidable suite of in-house cyber-surveillance tools are closely vetted with bureau attorneys for legal compliance. The point Anderson makes is that even legally-sanctioned surveillance is, well, creepy.

Meanwhile the judiciary is on the look-out for government fishing expeditions. As one Texas judge opined of the FBI’s surveillance software, “what if the target computer is located in a public library, Internet café…what if the computer is used by family or friends uninvolved in the illegal scheme?” Good questions indeed, Your Honor.

Another essay deals with early FBI packet sniffer Carnivore where the same argument is made:

“It might be looking for Joe X. Terrorist’s e-mails in transit, or it might try to monitor his instant messages, but yours and mine might also pass through the same router.”

Somehow discriminating searches have to be kept to their narrow charters. The recent news of NSA employees going through the personal information of acquaintances is hardly encouraging.

Anderson is a great writer with a lucid style. The stories are at times humorous yet consistently informative and his grasp of recent jurisprudence is formidable. Even more important, he writes without obvious ideological bias. This agnostic approach gives reasonable voice to all sides.

Sealand/HavenCo’s John Barlow makes a final, surreal appearance in the book speaking at a 2011 e-G8 meeting in counterpoint to French President Nicolas Sarkozy who, one suspects, is oblivious to the subtly patronizing premise of his views when he intones:

“Don’t forget that behind the anonymous Internet user there is a real citizen living in a real society and a real culture and a nation to which he or she belongs, with its laws and its rules.”

And the Internet is what, Mr. President? A La-La Land for time-wasters bereft of all cultural and societal coordinates? Sacré bleu and cue Janet Jackson—we are a part of the cyber nation!

Much to his surprise, Barlow is met with applause when he responds that the meeting’s focus is nothing more than an attempt to impose, “the standards of some business practices and institutional power centers that come from another era on the future, whether they are actually productive of new ideas or not.” In the end, there is no end, or as Anderson says: “We’re never going to engineer the mess out of [the Internet].” The best protection against creativity and innovation is public vigilance, pragmatism, tolerance and informed policing. And have I got the midnight shoppers to champion this high cause (not).

In the final analysis, Anderson’s studious equanimity and telling of all sides, while serving as the book’s primary strength, leaves this reader with a vague disquiet nonetheless. I probably violate the eminently reasonable scope of Anderson’s endeavor when I suggest that, maybe just maybe, there’s more to this enforcement racket than a bunch of well-meaning cops trying to get along in a good game of chase. Indeed there are nefarious agendas within law enforcement about which Anderson seems too polite to ponder. Our freedoms are most imperiled, not from some villain du jour glaring down from a wanted poster, but from a tech-laden government assiduously giving him chase, all for our ‘protection’. Then again, that might just be my own ideological druthers talking, a failing which Anderson has the good sense to avoid.

Book Review: Internet Police: How Crime Went Online and the Cops Followed (by Nate Anderson)