Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West / Edition 1

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"A beautiful, absorbing, tragic book. . . . Rebecca Solnit tells this story with the passion and clarity it deserves."—Larry McMurtry

"Savage Dreams summons us to the campfires of resistance."—Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz

"Savage Dreams is about many things: despoliation and restoration, finding a voice between contemporary noise and silence, making friends and enemies. Most of all, though, it may be about a journey into history: about how understanding history and making it are not really very different."—Greil Marcus, author of Lipstick Traces

"A wonderful and important book, weaving past and present, politics and spirituality, land and history, pleasure and outrage, esthetics and activism, into a map where we as Americans find ourselves today. Intellectually challenging but beautifully written and eminently readable, Savage Dreams has both heart and teeth." —Lucy Lippard, author of Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory

Behind the scenic beauty of the American West is a bloody history of conquest, conflict, and exploitation. Part travelogue, part history, and part literary meditation on the landscape, this book describes in convincing detail how this violent heritage has left the region with many unresolved problems and much ongoing suffering.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since 1951, the U.S. has set off more than 900 nuclear explosions at the Nevada Test Site, and recently Yucca Mountain in the state was chosen as a major radioactive waste dump. According to Solnit, an art historian, environmentalist and antinuclear activist, the federal government is hell-bent on rendering public and Shoshone lands ``useless for everyone for all time.'' She explores two federally managed landscapes: the Nevada Test Site, which she characterizes as Armageddon, and California's Yosemite National Park, which she links to Eden. She depicts the latter in its change from native stronghold to war zone during the 19th-century annihilation of Indians to today's tourist attraction. Flinging her net wide, Solnit evokes powerful images of destruction and conquest as she explores governmental abuses in the region. (Oct.)
Solnit (art history, San Francisco Art Institute) offers a first- person account of her expeditions in California and Nevada, focusing on the politics and history of the Nevada Test Site and Yosemite National Park. She explores the connections between the political history of the West and its cultural history, which has been obscured by the reality of the violent past. Solnit weaves the story of the Danns, two Western Shoshone sisters who have fought the US government in an effort to reclaim their ancestral lands, into her narrative. Lacks an index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520220669
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2000
  • Edition description: 1ST CALIFO
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Solnit is the author of A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland (1997), among other books. She lives in San Francisco. In 2003, she was awarded the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction.
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Table of Contents

New Preface

From Hell to Breakfast
Like Moths to a Candle
April Fool's Day
Lise Meitner's Walking Shoes
Golden Hours and Iron County
Ruby Valley and the Ranch
The War
Keeping Pace with the Tortoise

The Rainbow
Framing the View
Vanishing (Remaining)
Fire in the Garden
The Name of the Snake
Up the River of Mercy
Savage's Grave
Full Circle



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