Vanishing America: In Pursuit of Our Elusive Landscapes

Vanishing America: In Pursuit of Our Elusive Landscapes

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by James Conaway
     
 

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A mixture of travelogue and personal narrative, James Conaway’s smart, informative essays offer an insightful depiction of his journeys between Washington, D.C., and Big Sur, California, as he tries to understand what has become of the places, people, and traditions that were once so precious but have now been irreparably changed. Incorporating the voices of…  See more details below

Overview

A mixture of travelogue and personal narrative, James Conaway’s smart, informative essays offer an insightful depiction of his journeys between Washington, D.C., and Big Sur, California, as he tries to understand what has become of the places, people, and traditions that were once so precious but have now been irreparably changed. Incorporating the voices of cowboys, real estate agents, activists, and many others, he raises vital questions about the merits of sprawling development and the ever-increasing use of resources in the name of “progress.” He urges us to consider the value of preservation in our growth-driven culture, as well as the ramifications of prosperity on the places important to our national identity.

Editorial Reviews

William Kittredge
What's important about Vanishing America is its protest against our seeming national willingness to wreck nature and neighborhoods.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In these perceptive essays, Conaway (The Far Side of Eden) shows how development and tourism are laying waste to America's natural and cultural landscapes. Entertaining as well as astute, the pieces revolve around his impressions of exceptional places he considers "physical and spiritual barometers" of the country's health, including the Boise River in Idaho (overused and polluted), Napa Valley in California (disfigured by gigantic wineries and McMansions) and national parks (considered "saleable products" by elected officials and adversely affected by too many tourists, toilets, buses, concessionaires and paved highways). On Western communal lands that should be preserved by the Bureau of Land Management, such as New Mexico's Bisti Badlands and Wyoming's Big Piney, energy exploration and extraction, grazing and all-terrain vehicles are taking their toll. On the grounds of Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral, "development needs" have resulted in new buildings, accommodations for tour buses and a huge gymnasium, so that an institution supposedly dedicated to saving souls has been turned into an "engine of tourism, development, and controversy." Conaway argues persuasively that these irreplaceable landscapes stand for the real America, but because we are sacrificing them to material concerns, we're losing our culture along with the very ground upon which America was built. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Preservation magazine editor-at-large Conaway (The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley, 2002, etc.) goes on a walkabout, looking for the America that doesn't make the headlines. Over in, say, Rock Springs, Wyo., time was when a person could find a patch of dirt and grow a few things to eat. When Conaway arrived, he found a "nightmare of development," courtesy of the oil-industry-friendly Bush administration, which did away with the usual precautions "in the frenzied abandonment of environmental and community standards," yielding a raped-and-pillaged landscape that even the worst strip miner could only have dreamed of a generation earlier. Up on the Strip, that remote part of the country where the Grand Canyon divides a chunk of Arizona from the rest of the state, Mormon ranchers struggle to keep a few cattle alive in country so parched that "dust got into ears and nose and formed little mud deltas at the corners of our eyes." In Orange, Va., the better-off among the landed gentry gather on their farms, places where pickup trucks are unknown, to go chasing after foxes-but mostly to eat oysters and clams and tournedos of beef and drink and drink. Each of Conaway's forays into odd corners of the country is an anthropological exercise of a kind, introducing readers to people who inhabit places that could use a little preserving-as, he insists, does the entire public domain, a commonweal that is rapidly disappearing in a country that "denies itself nothing, including squandered resources requiring the abandonment of whole cultures and the destruction of the very ground upon which America was built."A lively, literate and pained visit to American places toolittle seen, deserving a place alongside Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781619022027
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
10/10/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
532 KB

Meet the Author

James Conaway is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler as well as the author of ten previous books, including The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Vanishing America: In Pursuit of Our Elusive Landscapes 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
manirul01 More than 1 year ago
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