A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil: Charities, Hollywood, Joseph Koney, and Other Abominations (Nortia Press) all began when scriptwriter Jane Bussmann, while in Hollywood interviewing celebrities during the Golden Age of Stupid, saw a picture of John Prendergast. His day job was ending war, and he was extremely attractive. Jane "may have inferred she was a Foreign Correspondent" because all of a sudden she was en route to Africa. The only problem was that John had left Uganda, so she was now alone in a war-torn country. Instead of going home, Jane, appalled by 25,000 child abductions, decided to investigate -- at first to make John fancy her, but then to get to the bottom of this secret war. This comedic and hard-hitting investigative book combines a maverick heroine, hilarious disasters, and moving tragedy.
★★★★★ (4 out of 5)
The author, Jane Bussman, is a British comedy writer and performer, who starts off interviewing famous celebrities in Hollywood during the Golden Age of Stupid (early to mid 2000s). After seeing a picture of American peace activist John Prendergast and hearing about how is trying to stop Joseph Kony, a man who has kidnapped thousands of kids in Uganda, she decides to follow him there. The thing is, John Prendergast is an attractive man and Jane originally gets in contact with him because she wants to impress him and go on a date with him. She even buys a lip plumper before meeting him!
One of the best things about this story is the fact that it's simultaneously hilarious, thrilling, moving, scary, and at times disgusting. The words "hard-hitting comedic investigative book" nails it. Jane starts off feeling like a "useless" and superficial person who only interviews celebrities, but seeing that picture of John Prendergast literally changed her life. She tries everything to get a newspaper to say yes to her writing an article about Prendergast and Uganda, and when someone does say yes she jumps right in. There's a moments hesitation since she's going to a war-torn country, but really only a moment; Jane jumps head first into this and doesn't look back.
I was scared for Jane though when she gets to Uganda and discovers that she's alone. John Prendergast has gone back to D.C., but she decides to stay and investigate Joseph Kony on her own. Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, is wanted on charges of rape, murder, and kidnapping somewhere between 20,000 to 60,000 children. Jane becomes a "useful" person by digging deeper into this secret war, by interviewing child soldiers and military men, by asking dangerous questions, and by helping someone other than herself. She investigates to pass the time, but uncovers some startling things. As you read it, you can feel all the passion and hardwork that Jane put into her investigation and book.
What I liked: Jane herself; following the story through her eyes made this story interesting. It could've turned into a 300-page newspaper article on kidnapped children and a military that's doing nothing to help it's people, but reading about what's going on in Uganda through Jane makes it memorable and moving.
It also helped that Jane's wit, humor, charm is sprinkled on every page. She manages to turn distressing scenes into something touching and funny, but in a tasteful and eye-opening way.
I also liked the fact that I'm learning about what's going on in Uganda and reading about people's stories while also being entertained. It's hard to learn about something when it reads like a textbook, but that was not the case for this book. I kept turning the page to learn more because it reads like a travel journal.
What I didn't like: There wasn't much I didn't like to be honest. There were lags in the story at times and I found myself wondering when something interesting was going to happen, but it's based on real life and real life isn't all adventure and action sequences. The only other thing was that I felt like we were in Hollywood interviewing celebrities for too long at the beginning. I wanted to meet John Prendergast and get to Uganda sooner.
The other thing I don't like is the American title. The full American title is A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil: Charities, Hollywood, Joseph Koney, and Other Abominations. The British title is The Worst Date Ever: War Crimes, Hollywood Heartthrobs, and Other Abominations (see cover below). The British title is funny and has sass, but you know there's going to be some not-so-pretty things as well, whereas the American title sounds depressing and doesn't indicate that there's going to be humor. But that's just my opinion.
Overall, I would 100% recommend this book if you want to know the true story of what's going on over in Uganda, but you want a fresh, heart-felt, and funny spin to it.
Q&A WITH JANE BUSSMAN*
1. In your book you talk about the realization that you were one of the “Useless” people instead of the “Useful” people, can you tell us a little more about this?
I think when your career has led you to writing about how sane and happy Britney Spears is you have to ask yourself some serious questions, but the epiphany was when I was watching some Doctors Without Borders neurosurgeon on TV and thinking, there are two kinds of people in this world, useful people and useless people. And I've worked my entire adult life to be absolutely useless. Not like that Doctors Without Borders neurosurgeon.
I bet that Doctor Without Borders neurosurgeon could fuck any refugee he likes. I then gave up my entire life to devote every second of my day to being useful. It was a total bloody failure. Although I did get to live up a hill with Doctors Without Borders and go dancing with them in a Congolese disco.
2. After you decided to go to Africa and seduce the “sexy” peacekeeper, John Prendergast, the magazine Independent, gave you just the excuse you needed to go meet him. What was that like?
Being told they thought I was perfect to write a story called "Dating Out of Your League"? Par for the course in British journalism. Of course I have no sense of irony so I demanded to interview John Prendergast instead.
3. You supported the Kony2012 campaign despite its controversy. Why?
Before Kony2012 I spent 7 years trying to get the story out there. The only news outlet that would touch it when kids were being kidnapped was the Mail on Sunday, a British family paper so right of centre that it's inaugural headline was probably BLACK PEOPLE: WHOSE FAULT ARE THEY? After Kony2012 anyone who knew anything about the subject was getting platforms as big as the BBC World Service, which has up to 300 million people. If you are seriously going to waste that platform shooting the messenger when the message is so important you're an idiot. So what if they're blonde! So what if they're Christians! And CIA? Seriously? If the CIA want to get into Africa they don't spend nine years infiltrating a student video protest group, they fly to Kigali International Airport and say "Hello, we're the CIA, we'll have our usual rooms please."
4. Tell us more about your trip to Uganda. What was that experience like for you?
Oy vey. Well it opened my eyes to the poverty industry. I set out hoping to work in it and came home hating its guts for keeping wars going while pretending that was the decent thing to do. No time to go into it here, but the book has a few fairly fiery chapters the lawyers had a field day with, all true. Oddly the legal team were more worried about charities than war criminals, which says something.
5. How have social media platforms changed the way charities work?
Yes. It's made them even more revolting, more shameless, more duplicitous and more intrusive into our personal lives. Scum. And of course I'm not talking about Mrs Miggins or her mobile library van, or any of the decent people who just get on with it and live modestly with the people they are trying to help, I'm talking about the billion dollar poverty industry that uses refugees and children like Kony's kidnapped kids as their cash cow. Although there should be some authority somewhere that knows what Mr Miggins is doing in the back of the van…
--"Ashton's eyes were so picture-perfect dark and sexy that you felt guilty staring into them, the way you'd feel guilty stroking a naked ass if you found one in your bag." (p. 5-6)
--"This man had boiled war into a simple argument: while old-fashioned poverty and injustice set the scene, war is bad guys committing classic bad-guy crimes like murder, theft and rape, and we let them get away with it by pretending it's more complicated than it is. Staggeringly, he said these problems have solutions." (p. 66)
--"If this was 1938 and Bashir was Hitler, then John was a whistleblower, trying to get anyone to listen. Villages; he's burning whole villages, you have to believe me... John's problem, of course, was that his genocide was taking place in Africa, and on international give-a-shit provisos, Africans are Jews without the money, bagels, or Seinfeld." (p. 85)
--"A land with a fake famine where parents had their kids stolen and kept quiet. What was this place? Black magic or no black magic, 1.6 million people running from one man made no sense." (p. 131)
--"Let's hand the army the entire ball of slack and say they're only human -- they were too scared to face the rebels and save the girls. That's cool too. But at that point, it's a little unsporting to call yourself an army. Call yourself a group of similarly attired young men sitting in a nearby building who happen to have some weapons and ammunition they won't be using. This avoids the outside world mistaking you for people who might defend civilians." (p. 218)
--"I realized this story has a Hollywood ending, because I learned that one person can make a difference." (p. 365)
Will you be reading this book?
**I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.**