DESPERADO by Grace Lichtenstein


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The adventures of a transplanted Brooklynite amid the sagebrush and the thistle. Lichtenstein came to roam the Wild West courtesy of the New York Times as its Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief, in which capacity she met a bewildering array of Mormons, Oglala Indians, environmentalists, ranchers, and industrial developers. To say nothing of John Wayne and Robert Redford. For a ""left-leaning, kneejerk liberal New Yorker"" the culture shock was terrific, but in this case her unabashed Eastern provincialism is a plus. As Rocky Mountain correspondent, Lichtenstein covered the despoliation of the West in its 1970s version. The mining and energy interests were everywhere ready to rearrange the region's topography and economy with power plants and strip mines. She was similarly dismayed at the colonial enclave that is the Pine Ridge Reservation, the cowboy mentality which survives even as the life that produced it disappears, the battles of the Mormon Church against abortion and X-rated movies, the local animosity to environmentalists who are considered the ""pinkos"" of the West, the all-pervasive ""boosterism"" of the region where reporters prefer to applaud rather than to expose. Her observations are filtered through her own vagrant sense of passing through: ""I""m living in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line,"" as the man said. With the exultation of the Utah canyons to provide a natural high, and the Boise City jail and a cocaine bust to provide a natural low, this is an entertaining round-up that probably confirms more woolly ten-gallon stereotypes than it destroys but does so with a keen, appreciative sense of regional differences and antagonisms.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1977
Publisher: Dial