by Timothy Egan ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1998
A sometimes arch, sometimes curmudgeonly, but always revealing tour of the modern Mountain West. That place, as New York Times Pacific Northwest correspondent Egan (Breaking Blue, 1992) delights in showing, trades on the myths of its past. Although the West celebrates stalwart do-gooders, lone heroes, and desperadoes in places like Deadwood and Tombstone, in fact it is and has always been highly corporatized, with a curious boss-driven politics that persists well into the present. The actor Brace Willis found this out for himself, Egan writes, when, after buying up much of the little Idaho town of Hailey, he decided to launch a ballot initiative against nuclear-waste dumping in the vicinity. ""In the election,"" Egan writes with evident glee, ""he was outgunned by fellow Republicans who favor a nuclear presence. He could have learned something from the Copper Kings: they never lost unless it was planned."" Similar clashes between old sensibilities and modern mores fuel much of Egan's narrative. He writes of a New Mexico man who, ""hiding in the woods of custom and culture,"" has exploited local anti-government sentiment to defy US Forest Service restrictions on cattle grazing in wilderness areas; of a Colorado entrepreneur who believes the future of Western agriculture lies in ostrich ranching; of the present Interior secretary, Brace Babbitt, who has ""somewhat meekly"" been working to undo environmental damage wrought over the last century; and of out-of-the-way places and people caught up in the rapidly changing region. Throughout, Egan writes with grim humor and thinly disguised anger, the justifiable rage of a native son fed up with the seemingly endless development and destruction now being visited on the West in the name of progress. Solid reporting and storytelling make this a book of value to anyone interested in what is happening west of the Mississippi.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998
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