There Was a River

There Was a River

by Bruce Berger
     
 

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On October 7, 1962, Bruce Berger and three friends embarked on what may have been the last trip taken through the Colorado River's Glen Canyon before the floodgates were closed at Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell began to fill. After thirty years, one can grieve for what was lost and then, like Berger, take another look around. The Southwest Berger sees is

Overview


On October 7, 1962, Bruce Berger and three friends embarked on what may have been the last trip taken through the Colorado River's Glen Canyon before the floodgates were closed at Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell began to fill. After thirty years, one can grieve for what was lost and then, like Berger, take another look around. The Southwest Berger sees is an unusual, even odd, place, with inhabitants that are just as strange. In this collection of essays he introduces us to people and places that define a region and a way of life. We meet eccentric desert dwellers like Cactus Pete, who claimed to have mapped the mountains of Venus long before NASA penetrated its clouds. We chart the canals of Phoenix, which have created a Martian landscape out of an irrigation system dating back to the ancient Hohokam; stay at a "wigwam" motel in Holbrook, whose kitsch appeals even to Hopis; and dim our lights for the International Dark-Sky Association's efforts to keep night skies safe for astronomy. Focusing on the interaction of people with the environment, Berger reveals an original vision of the Southwest that encompasses both city and wilderness. In a concluding essay centering on the sale of his mother's estate in Phoenix, he concedes that "our intention to leave the desert alone has resulted, unwittingly, in loss after loss, simply by our being here." Sometimes there are losses—a canyon, a house—but Berger attunes us to the prodigies of change.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"There Was a River explores the idiosyncrasies of the desert Southwest, and Berger has a keen eye for the oddities of human behavior interacting with this extraordinary environment. Through the book parade a number of characters whom we alternately admire, disdain, want to avoid at all costs, or can't wait to meet." —Colorado Plateau Advocate"His skilled language and extraordinary descriptions of this land of 'pink geology' will captivate readers, even those who have never traveled west of the Mississippi." —Publishers Weekly"This book is not your run-of-the-mill psycho-spiritual babble of self-discovery in the desert. This is a book written by a real desert rat, for real desert rats. . . . Those who understand, or have an inkling they understand, will appreciate the soft intelligence and humor of this fine writer." —Desert Skies"Berger is a talented writer who wrestles with the compromises we all make as desert city-dwellers." —Journal of Arizona History
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Utah's Glen Canyon, moccasins, twilled ring baskets and pottery have given way to Pepsi cans, windsurfers and pleasure boats. The Glen Canyon Dam, hailed as a feat of engineering genius is to some a tragic defeat of nature-an awful irony Berger eloquently captures in his book of essays. In the title piece, the author recalls one of the final raft trips down the Colorado before the dam was built, describing his exploration of hidden chambers and ruins of lost civilizations soon to be drowned beneath the flood waters. ``It becomes incumbent upon us to keep Glen Canyon alive if only as a wound that will not heal, to give us eyes and hearts, the precedent and the rage to defend what is left.'' Berger, who won the 1990 Western States Book Award for The Telling Distance: Conversations with the American Desert, is eloquent, emotional but always reasonable in his examination of the faulty motivations and bureaucratic game-playing behind the project. In other essays, Berger portrays unique characters, such as ``Cactus Pete,'' an Arizona eccentric who maps the mountains of Venus, or ``Squeek,'' a friend from Berger's freelance piano-playing days who holds the Guinness record for most songs played from memory (1,852). Returning to the wild and beautiful country he loves, Berger's last essay laments the trespass of humans, even himself-``In the future I would prefer to be comforted by deserts that are wilder, less abused by myself.'' His skilled language and extraordinary descriptions of this land of ``pink geology'' will captivate readers, even those who have never traveled west of the Mississippi. (Oct.)
Booknews
A collection of 17 new essays by the well known writer on the American southwest. The title essay reflects on his 1962 raft trip through Glen Canyon just before it was flooded by a dam. Others discuss eccentric desert dwellers, a stay at a wigwam hotel, astronomers' attempts to keep western cities dark, and other peculiarities of the region. No index or bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816514694
Publisher:
University of Arizona Press
Publication date:
08/01/1994
Pages:
198
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

Meet the Author


Bruce Berger is the author of The Telling Distance: Conversations with the American Desert, which won the Western States Book Award for nonfiction in 1990. His previous books include Notes of a Half-Aspenite, A Dazzle of Hummingbirds, and Hangin' On. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Sierra, Americana, Westways, and elsewhere. He has also played the piano professionally both in this country and in Spain.

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