As a meditation on American gun violence, Bloodbath Nation seems an odd book for Auster to have produced; he is known as a novelist, after all ... Auster, however, is not interested in the standard us-and-them narrative of guns in the United States: the Second Amendment absolutists or those who oppose them, the tired arguments about right and wrong, left and right. Rather, he means to take a more historical (which is to say: narrative) perspective ... Ostrander contributes forty-one images, each in its way as riveting as Auster’s text ... The power of Auster’s book is that it never blinks in articulating this dilemma, that it doesn’t let anybody off the hook. Gun violence in the United States is a collective problem, after all—which also means, as Bloodbath Nation argues so compellingly, that it is a collective responsibility.
Having unpacked both his own ambivalent, alienated and somewhat antipathetic personal connection to the weapon itself he then sets out to understand where the nation is coming from and why ... While there is something to Auster’s argument, there is not enough in it to carry the day and not enough elsewhere in the book to sustain it ... There are no easy answers. But I did expect that having demanded an honest, difficult national conversation he would, at least, go on to tell us what he thinks the nation should be talking about ... He doesn’t ... His failure to signal a destination, let alone arrive at one, leaves the reader lost and feeling as hopeless as when they started.
Bloodbath Nation is an attempt to short-circuit [Auster's] own tricksiness and lack of affect. It is genuinely compelling, but remains problematic. It is clearly a book born out of conviction and passion, but the older Auster is always there ... The book is both a histology and a historiography of gun culture in the United States, taking in the Black Panthers alongside colonialism, the Second Amendment aside attempts to redefine a militia, Westerns and G-men ... By far the best part of this book is the fourth section.