ABOUT A MOUNTAIN by John D’Agata

ABOUT A MOUNTAIN

KIRKUS REVIEW

Middling wanderings along the Las Vegas Strip and the Nevada desert.

With a hat tip to Bill Maher, a new rule emerges from these pages: If you’re going to write about Las Vegas and enter gonzo territory, you had better write as well as Hunter Thompson. D’Agata (Creative Writing/Univ. of Iowa; Halls of Fame: Essays, 2001, etc.) doesn’t approach those grand heights, and the heart sinks a touch at seeing some of the halfhearted flourishes: “What I’d planned to do was help my mother find her new home. Help her move in. Get my mom settled.” Such telegraphy seems to serve no purpose, and the narrative, studded with single-sentence paragraphs, is similarly disjointed to no real effect. As his sense of geography indicates, he’s a stranger ’round these parts, though he adopts a local cause célèbre in the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste controversy and makes himself a little more at home exploring it. D’Agata takes a roundabout path getting to some of the finer points of that imbroglio, with textbook-like detours—“Cognitive science is the study of how humans know themselves. It explores how we perceive, reason, and interact with the world through the complex negotiation of objects and ideas”—gossipy dishing of local eco-hero Edward Abbey and musings on suicide and mutant fish. Ultimately, the piece has an unfinished, workshoppy feel, and it doesn’t deliver significant news about either Yucca Mountain or Las Vegas—yes, the place is an assault on the senses; yes, it makes people unhappy; yes, it’s one of the more bizarre locales on the planet.

Well-meaning but off the mark.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-393-06818-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2009




THE “WE’RE NOT DRINKING THE KOOL-AID” LIST OF 2010 (ACCLAIMED BOOKS—OR BOOKS BY ACCLAIMED AUTHORS—THAT DIDN’T LIVE UP TO OUR EXPECTATIONS):

Fiction BY NIGHTFALL by Michael Cunningham
by Michael Cunningham
Nonfiction ABOUT A MOUNTAIN by John D’Agata
by John D’Agata
Fiction IMPERIAL BEDROOMS by Bret Easton Ellis
by Bret Easton Ellis
Fiction FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen
by Jonathan Franzen

MORE BY JOHN D’AGATA

NonfictionTHE LIFESPAN OF A FACT by John D’Agata
by John D’Agata
NonfictionTHE NEXT AMERICAN ESSAY by John D’Agata
by John D’Agata
NonfictionHALLS OF FAME by John D’Agata
by John D’Agata

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionFOOL ME ONCE by Rick Lax
by Rick Lax
NonfictionTHE FIDDLER IN THE SUBWAY by Gene Weingarten
by Gene Weingarten
NonfictionIN NEVADA by David Thomson
by David Thomson