A book of timeless importance about the American West by a National Book Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning author. The essays collected in this volume encompass memoir, nature conservation, history, geography, and literature. Delving into the post-World War II boom that brought the Rocky Mountain West—from Montana and Idaho to Utah and Nevada—into the modern age, Stegner's essays explore the essence of the American soul. Writtten over a period of thirty-five years by a writer and thinker who will always hold a unique position in modern American letters, The Sound of Mountain Water is a modern American classic.
Ann Ronald found a career and a home when she moved to Reno to teach at the University of Nevada. There, she undertook the study of the literature of the West and discovered that the region's vast open spaces satisfied her zest for the outdoors. The essays collected in Reader of the Purple Sage reflect Ronald's wide-ranging interests. Here are highly informative, and deeply informed, critical essays on writers as diverse as Zane Grey, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and Terry Tempest Williams, as well as the Tonopah Ladies - a group of literary women who found their voices in the unlikely setting of a mining boomtown - and on such varied topics as the image of Reno in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction. Included are several recent essays in which Ronald thoughtfully discusses the burgeoning field of environmental writing, some of its principal themes and concerns, and its best-known practitioners. Individually, these essays have made a significant contribution to literary scholarship. As an ensemble, they offer a remarkably perceptive, knowing, and sensitive discussion of the Iiterary West, its widely various voices and multifarious concerns, its beauty, ironies, and wisdom.
In the early 1970s, empowered by the civil rights and women's movements, a new group of women writers began speaking to the American public. Their topic, broadly defined, was the postmodern American West. By the mid-1980s, their combined works made for a bona fide literary groundswell in both critical and commercial terms. However, as Krista Comer notes, despite the attentions of publishers, the media, and millions of readers, literary scholars have rarely addressed this movement or its writers. Too many critics, Comer argues, still enamored of western images that are both masculine and antimodern, have been slow to reckon with the emergence of a new, far more "feminine," postmodern, multiracial, and urban west. Here, she calls for a redesign of the field of western cultural studies, one that engages issues of gender and race and is more self-conscious about space itself_especially that cherished symbol of western "authenticity," open landscape. Surveying works by Joan Didion, Wanda Coleman, Maxine Hong Kingston, Leslie Marmon Silko, Barbara Kingsolver, Pam Houston, Louise Erdrich, Sandra Cisneros, and Mary Clearman Blew, Comer shows how these and other contemporary women writers have mapped new geographical imaginations upon the cultural and social spaces of today's American West.
Daniel McCool not only chronicles the history of water development agencies in America and the way in which special interests have abused rather than preserved the country's rivers, he also narrates the second, brighter act in this ongoing story: the surging, grassroots movement to bring these rivers back to life and ensure they remain pristine for future generations. The culmination of ten years of research and observation, McCool's book confirms the surprising news that America's rivers are indeed returning to a healthier, free-flowing condition. The politics of river restoration demonstrates how strong grassroots movements can challenge entrenched powers and win. Through passion and dedication, ordinary people are reclaiming the American landscape, forming a "river republic" of concerned citizens from all backgrounds and sectors of society. As McCool shows, the history, culture, and fate of America is tied to its rivers, and their restoration is a microcosm mirroring American beliefs, livelihoods, and an increasing awareness of what two hundred years of environmental degradation can do. McCool profiles the individuals he calls "instigators," who initiated the fight for these waterways and, despite enormous odds, have succeeded in the near-impossible task of challenging and changing the status quo. Part I of the volume recounts the history of America's relationship to its rivers; part II describes how and why Americans "parted" them out, destroying their essence and diminishing their value; and part III shows how society can live in harmony with its waterways while restoring their well-being—and, by extension, the well-being of those who depend on them.
Bo Mason, his wife, Elsa, and their two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair. Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks out his fortune—in the hotel business, in new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum-running through the treacherous back roads of the American Northwest. Stegner portrays more than thirty years in the life of the Mason family in this masterful, harrwoing saga of people trying to survive during the lean years of the early twentieth century.
In the spring of 1931, in a rugged desert canyon on the Arizona-Nevada border, an army of workmen began one of the most difficult and daring building projects ever undertaken—the construction of Hoover Dam. Through the worst years of the Great Depression as many as five thousand laborers toiled twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to erect the huge structure that would harness the Colorado River and transform the American West. Construction of the giant dam was a triumph of human ingenuity, yet the full story of this monumental endeavor has never been told. Now, in an engrossing, fast-paced narrative, Joseph E. Stevens recounts the gripping saga of Hoover Dam. Drawing on a wealth of material, including manuscript collections, government documents, contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, and personal interviews and correspondence with men and women who were involved with the construction, he brings the Hoover Dam adventure to life. Described here in dramatic detail are the deadly hazards the work crews faced as they hacked and blasted the dam’s foundation out of solid rock; the bitter political battles and violent labor unrest that threatened to shut the job down; the deprivation and grinding hardship endured by the workers’ families; the dam builders’ gambling, drinking, and whoring sprees in nearby Las Vegas; and the stirring triumphs and searing moments of terror as the massive concrete wedge rose inexorably from the canyon floor. Here, too, is an unforgettable cast of characters: Henry Kaiser, Warren Bechtel, and Harry Morrison, the ambitious, headstrong construction executives who gambled fortune and fame on the Hoover Dam contract; Frank Crowe, the brilliant, obsessed field engineer who relentlessly drove the work force to finish the dam two and a half years ahead of schedule; Sims Ely, the irascible, teetotaling eccentric who ruled Boulder City, the straightlaced company town created for the dam workers by the federal government; and many more men and women whose courage and sacrifice, greed and frailty, made the dam’s construction a great human, as well as technological, adventure. Hoover Dam is a compelling, irresistible account of an extraordinary American epic.
The lotus blossoms in July, so the other day I took a tripsomething of an annual pilgrimage of sortsto a provincial park famous for its sea of pink lotuses. I go there every summer and just saunter around the huge pond for half a day or so and then return. The rainy season had already begun and when I arrived it was drizzling and the park was deserted. With umbrella in hand, I stood on the footbridge in the center of the pond, inhaling the mystical fragrance and watching the raindrops fall on the large green lotus pads. As it began to rain harder, it was interesting to observe that what seemed like large raindrops falling in front of my eyes looked more like tiny grains of millet once they landed on the pads. Then I noticed something else. The raindrops would collect into little transparent crystal pools on the pads. As more raindrops fell, the pools became larger and heavier, and the pads began to roll the pools around on their surfaces. When these little crystal pools grew to a certain size and weight, the pads unhesitatingly dropped them down onto the other pads below. Those pads in turn rolled the pools around until they were too big and heavy, whence they just rolled them off and down into the pond. I watched this process rather indifferently until I realized what was going on, and then I marveled at the wisdom to be found in the lotus pond. The pads held what they could until it became too much for them, and then they freed themselves of their burdens. If they didn't and, out of greed, tried to hold as many raindrops as possible, then either the pads would tear or their stems would break from the weight. - Zen Master Bopjong, Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall
This book is different from any other Edward Abbey book. It includes essays, travel pieces and fictions to reveal Ed's life directly, in his own words. The selections gathered here are arranged chronologically by incident, not by date of publication, to offer Edward Abbey's life from the time he was the boy called Ned in Home, Pennsylvania, until his death in Tucson at age 62. A short note introduces each of the four parts of the book and attempts to identify what's happening in the author's life at the time. When relevant, some details of publishing history are provided.
The Fool's Progress, the "fat masterpiece" as Edward Abbey labeled it, is his most important piece of writing: it reveals the complete Ed Abbey, from the green grass of his memory as a child in Appalachia to his approaching death in Tuscon at age sixty two. When his third wife abandons him in Tucson, boozing, misanthropic anarchist Henry Holyoak Lightcap shoots his refrigerator and sets off in a battered pick-up truck for his ancestral home in West Virginia. Accompanied only by his dying dog and his memories, the irascible warhorse (a stand-in for the "real" Abbey) begins a bizarre cross-country odyssey--determined to make peace with his past--and to wage one last war against the ravages of "progress." "A profane, wildly funny, brash, overbearing, exquisite tour de force." -- The Chicago Tribune