THE LAST CHEATER'S WALTZ by Ellen Meloy

THE LAST CHEATER'S WALTZ

Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest

KIRKUS REVIEW

A thoughtful recounting of one woman’s travels in the post—Cold War American West. Meloy (Raven’s Exile, not reviewed), an award-winning writer and river-runner who lives in southeastern Utah, writes that she awoke one morning to discover that she was “either helplessly unmoored from my Self or hopelessly lost in the murk of Self”—a sticky tangle either way. To reattach herself to herself and also to her chosen turf, this “duck-and-covergirl born in the nuclear West” decided to revisit the land of her youth, where the Kennedy-era promise of atomic energy too cheap to meter and of mutual assured destruction kept the nation teetering between existential gloom and technology-born optimism. Meloy’s wanderings take her to the back roads of the desert Southwest, to hidden canyons where Navajo witchcraft and toxic waste reign side by side, and to little towns where uranium miners wait for cancer to claim them; collectively, the author calls these places “the terrain of strategic death.” Her travels ultimately guide her to the birthplace of the nuclear age: Los Alamos, N.M., where Meloy gives us a tour of the famed laboratory where the A-bomb was invented—but also of the surrounding countryside, where dealers in nuclear curios ply their trade “against [a] Wile E. Coyote backdrop.” Much has changed in the West since nuclear peace broke out a decade ago; as Meloy writes, “Ground zero in the nineties has at first an oddly pastoral luminosity—pastoral, that is, to desert denizens like me, who are accustomed to harmonious ‘emptiness’ and therefore find nothing missing” in the empty landscape. But in the end, as she shows us, the desert remains the desert, timelessly indifferent to human foibles. Meloy has not only rediscovered her connection to the badlands’she’s also made a fine book in the bargain. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-4065-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999




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