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Great Plains Paperback – May 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Frazier, staff writer for the New Yorker and author of Dating Your Mom , here explores the Great Plains at random, seeking the past and embracing the present. According to PW , "This is an engaging blend of travelogue, local color, geography and folklore." Photos. 100,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Extraordinary...One thinks of such American originals as John McPhee, Wallace Stegner, Edward Hoagland, Peter Matthiessen, and Evan S. Connell.” ―The Washington Post Book

“This is a brillant, funny, and altogether perfect book, soaked in research and then aired out on the open plains to evaporate the excess, leaving this modern masterpiece. It makes me want to get in a truck and drive straight out to North Dakota and look at the prairie.” ―Garrison Keillor

“History written with passion and delight... Frazier is a great storyteller.” ―Newsweek


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (May 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312278500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312278502
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian Frazier is the author of Great Plains, The Fish's Eye, On the Rez, and Family, as well as Coyote v. Acme and Dating Your Mom, all published by FSG. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By on December 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in a writing class in college and just recently reread it. If you're at all interested in what really goes on "beyond the plane window" down on the ground in the Great Plains geographical region you will most certainly enjoy this book. What I appreciated most was Frazier's ability to link the often colorful historical past of this region to the modern day present conditions. Pulling us backward and forward in time, Frazier gives us an engaging, humorous, and historically informative review of some of the Great Plains most well remembered events. Fortunately, often Frazier unintentionally shows his biases (always softening them with humor) on certain themes: strip mining, the Herb Clutter "In Cold Blood" murders, the Indian Crazy Horse, the military's placement of ICBMs on the northern plains, and Lawrence Welk. Great Plains is an entertaining and excellent read, especially on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. Just read and look down at the ground outside the window! I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. I've read it several times and each time it knocks me out. It begins with six sentences in a row that end in exclamation marks and has a scene about a local fashion show that summarizes the lost possibilities of America as well as anything I've read. It tells the story of Indians in the plains and the story of white people and why the author decided never again to cut his hair. And it is a museum of writerly virtues -- Frazier seems incapable of putting together a sentence without an unexpected but perfect swerve in it towards the end.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell Ayer on March 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ian Frazier is a skillful writer of non fiction. I would compare this book to John McPhee's Coming Into the Country. Frazier traveled some 25,000 miles across the Great Plains states that is from the Dakotas to Texas. He has tried (successfully) to distill the essence of the Great Plains in this regrettably short book. We learn where tumbleweed comes from-the steppes of Russia, what it's like to operate a Minuteman silo, how immigrants were enticed to come to the Great Plains. That the railroads wanted Germans but no French or Italians. Financing of agriculture is discussed-no loans west of the 100th Meridian. He writes of the the Dust Bowl and the population declines in 2/3rds of the counties. How an agricultural agent went to the steppes of Russia to get hardy wheat seeds and led to the popularity of pasta. This is not a travel guide. If you want detailed travel information, I suggest the Off the Beaten Path series of the Dakotas, Nebraska. and the other Plains states. The book could have been longer and better organized. For example the author mentions Odessa but does not mention the meteor craters, the million barrel tank, the Moynihan (sp?) sanddunes, the Mojo. He mentions the Black Hills but not pitchfork fondue. If you plan on going through the Plains states, you should read this book.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Elsegood on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is not a tourist book of the Great Plains but rather some interesting vignettes of the area as perceived by the author, Ian Frazier,about a vast expanse of 'big sky' territory.
Although not a history book, Frazier, weaves some interesting historical facts on a variety of people, places and subjects. Thus, we read about the great Indian warrior, Crazy Horse (a firm Frazier favourite), his adversary, Custer,and outlaws such as Billy the Kid and latter-day villains such as Bonnie and Clyde who all made appearances across the grand stage of the prairies.
We also learn of the impact of the railways and the effect of migration on the region with the rail companies preferring German workers over the French or Italians.
The miltary might of the USA is also portrayed as the author describes how parts of this seemingly tranquil territory has the capacity to effectively demolish the rest of the world, if American fire-power was ever fully unleashed. However, one thing the Russians were able to penetrate the US with was the humble tumbleweed. Frazier describes how they came originally from the Russian steppes. The author is something of a tumbling tumbleweed himself, moving as effortlessly from place to place in his rambles over this quintessential part of America.
Such a book can only give a flavour of the many states that constitute the Great Plains region.What Frazier has done for this far-away reader is to interest me in reading the history of the region in greater detail. Perhaps Walter Prescott Webb's similarly named book, (The Great Plains), will provide the detail missing from Frazier's cameo piece.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Hurley VINE VOICE on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
On the Great Plains is a great look at the land and it's history by a vagabond traveler that initially hooks up with a Sioux indian by the name of Le War Lance in New York and suddenly transports himself in a rusty van to travel the lonely highways of the Great Plains. While rambling through the country side Frazier provides a history of the land and a description of its present day state with a description of the people as well. Stories of Custer, Bonnie Clyde, Crazy Horse ( a particularly long fascination), Billy the Kid and the descriptions of the places that made them famous. Also fraught with humor such as a descriptively long ride to Sitting Bull's former cabin site located beyond the middle of nowhere with a guide that has to study intently a fuel additive bottle before believeing its not the right kind of alcohol. The history and stories of people and places are endlessly fascinating such as the inhabitants of Nicodemus, a black pioneer town that never completely died and that has an annual festival attended by the whole county, the story of Lawrence Welk and how he was once hit by a thrown brick, a description of a present day rendezvous at the site of Brent's Fort, a visit with the future and controversial Superintendent of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Gerad Baker and many more descriptions and historic story telling. More poignant in that Frazier travels as a modest man that sleeps frequently in his van while listening to the land outside including the ocassional vehicle that goes by in the night. A precursor to "On the Rez".
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