From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this circuitous, stylish investigation, D'Agata (Halls of Fame
) uses the federal government's highly controversial (and recently rejected) proposal to entomb the U.S.'s nuclear waste located in Yucca Mountain, near Las Vegas, as his way into a spiraling and subtle examination of the modern city, suicide, linguistics, Edvard Munch's The Scream
, ecological and psychic degradation, and the gulf between information and knowledge. Acting as a counterpoint to Yucca is the story of a teenager named Levi who leapt to his death off Las Vegas' Stratosphere Motel. It is testament to D'Agata skillful organization of the book, broken into Who, What, When, Where, and Why, and his use of a rapid sequences of montages—Levi's suicide is spliced with Orwellian Congressional debates on the stability of Yucca Mountain—that readers will be pleasurably (and perhaps necessarily) disoriented but never distracted from the themes knitting together the ostensibly unrelated voices of Native American activists, politicians, geologists, Levi's parents, D'Agata's own mother, and a host of zany Las Vegans. A sublime reading experience, aesthetically rewarding and marked by moral courage and humility. (Feb.)
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An innovative essayist (Halls of Fame, 2001) and dynamic anthologist, (The Lost Origins of the Essay, 2009), D’Agata brings his syncopated, collaged, and devastatingly deadpan style to a finely calibrated and nervy inquiry into civic follies. When his mother moves to Las Vegas, D’Agata becomes curious about the collision of science, politics, and corruption behind the ludicrous federal plan to transport deadly nuclear waste cross-country to unstable, porous Yucca Mountain. While trying to collect the outrageous facts about this doomed project, he also gathers troubling information about Nevada’s atomic-bomb test sites and Las Vegas’ dwindling water supply and its standing as the nation’s suicide capital. Shifting between a young man’s leap to his death from the Stratosphere Hotel and the absurd effort to design signage to warn future earthlings away from the proposed radioactive mountain, he sheds light on myriad delusions, scams, and lies. D’Agata’s distinctive narrative rhythms, melancholy wit, and keen perception of the social facade and the toxic darkness it conceals make for an acid test, and a ballad about the endless enigmas of humankind. --Donna Seaman