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Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West Paperback – March 1, 1992
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This book goes far beyond biography, into the nature and soul of the American West. It is Stegner at his best, assaying an entire era of our history, packing his pages with insights as shrewd as his prose. --Ivan Doig --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Stegner writes in a lucid, clear, frequently exciting prose style. Although his history is solid, his writing is somewhat more. For example, at one point Stegner writes of one person who was more than a little deluded about the nature of the West: "The yeasty schemes stirring in Adams' head must have generated gases to cloud his eyesight." Especially in context a brilliant sentence, and not of the quality one anticipates in a historical work, especially one that deals at length with questions of public policy. The volume also contains an Introduction by Stegner's mentor and teacher Bernard DeVoto, an essay that contains in a few pages the heart of DeVoto's own understanding of the West, and which alone would be worth the cost of the volume.
Stegner does an excellent job of relating Powell's own insights and visions to those of others of the day. He contrasts Powell's philosophy with the desires and urges of the people who were rushing to obtain land in the West, and the politicians who were trying to lure them there.Read more ›
To be sure, my view that this one is his best is likely colored by my impression that it treats the most important issues dealt with within Stegner's uvre, namely, the question of water use in the American West. However, independent of the book's importance in understanding the history of water use, it is also a rollicking adventure tale of a one-armed madman shooting hellacious rapids the likes of which our continent no longer knows, while strapped to a wooden boat.
Powell was a brilliant, eccentric man, and the United States would be a better place if the policies he suggested had been intelligently implemented (rather than first ignored and subsequently mis-applied). His life is well worth learning about.
Anyone who reads this is sure to increase the amount they know about this historic figure, and about the West in general as the stories of each are inextricably tangled. The book excels at its account of John Wesley Powell's life AFTER his famous trips down the Colorado River, and does a great job of describing Powell's role in the battle against over-populating the West.
If the book has faults though, they lie in that many of Stegner's sources have since been expounded upon or dismissed entirely, and so the facts in this book aren't entirely current. Also, Stegner dismisses too quickly the merits of the story of James White, a man who very possibly went down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon two years before Powell did.
And, it's kind of ridiculous how Stegner criticizes Powell's second expedition's photos as if they were famous works and art: This photo "is marred by too much nondescipt low-water beach in the foreground," and that sort of thing.
This is a great book for anyone interested in John Wesley Powell or the Colorado River. It's possibly Stegner's best nonfiction work, though "Mormon Country" is good as well.
For another great account of John Wesley Powell, read "Down the Great Unknown" by Edward Dolnick.
Or, for a half-decent book about Wallace Stegner's peculiarly white view of the American West, read, "'Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner' and Other Essays" by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. That one's kind of interesting.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The initial description of Powell's Grand Canyon transit is wonderful. Stegner becomes tedious and plodding during the remainder of the book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Gandalf
Powell was far ahead of his time. The boomers in Congress crushed his plan for water conservation by blaring to settlers "rain will follow the plow".
Great book if you are looking to glorify pale faced European 'opening of the West' by ignoring three hundred years of prior Spanish exploration and thousands of years of indigenous... Read morePublished 7 months ago by NoAdhesives
Skillful history of a multi-faceted person. Reading this book makes Powell's exploration of the Canyon before the Colorado was dammed seem nearly impossible.Published 7 months ago by Sandra Sailor
This is an extraordinary biography of an early conservation advocate of the West. Powell's efforts in Washington during the late 19th century are prophetic.Published 10 months ago by DB
Worth reading just for the adventure of his Western explorations, but essential for understanding forces shaping Federal land and water policies.Published 12 months ago by annapolis therapy