Last Call: The Rise and Fall of ProhibitionLast Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

this review refers to the audiobook version.

how can you take a subject as fun as prohibition and make it kind of… boring? focus relentlessly on the legislative aspects of it.

i got this book hoping to find out about how people actually lived with prohibition–how they procured their jollies or not, who went to jail, how you make bathtub gin… but alas, i was at least 70% disappointed.

the book is quite full of statistical data, which in its way is pretty enlightening–the quantities of booze your average american drank are quite thoroughly appalling–and the sheer size of the illegal (or quasi-legal) response to prohibition is rather amazing. it really wasn’t just a couple of dudes in the backwoods making potato alcohol with their knocked-together still. canadians made quite a lot of money supplying our thirst, as did California wineries making “sacramental” wine. but still… i wish there were more of an average-joe viewpoint.

i also wish that the author had paid a little attention to why the (mostly women) advocates of prohibition had felt so strongly about alcohol. women saw most clearly the effects of all that booze that america was awash in: kids unfed, rent unpaid, domestic violence. i suspect they had a greater motive than mere prissy tight-assed-ness, but the author makes no attempt to understand what drove them.

but it’s the legislation that kills this book. like our current congress, the previous one was feckless and immature, interested only in which way the political wind was blowing. it really doesn’t take pages and pages to get that across.