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Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West Paperback – October 26, 1999

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Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West + The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest (Vintage Departures) + The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Departures; Trade Paperback Edition edition (October 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067978182X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679781820
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The American West has always been as much a symbol as a location; as much a myth as a destination. "If land and religion are what people most often kill each other over," writes Timothy Egan, "then the West is different only in that the land is the religion. As such, the basic struggle is between the West of possibility and the West of possession." This struggle for possession is a recurring theme in Lasso the Wind, involving individuals such as Kit Laney, the "Last Cowboy in America," who defiantly refuses to pay for grazing rights on public land; Patricia Mulroy, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, who works to bring more water to Las Vegas' casinos, golf courses, and subdivisions, even if it means damming the Virgin River running through Zion National Park in Utah; and Robert P. McCulloch, a zealous developer who reassembled each stone of the London Bridge in the Arizona desert in an attempt to draw people to his contrived dream town. These 14 enlightening and entertaining essays are the result of Egan's tour of the 11 states "on the sunset side of the 100th meridian," which led him from remote villages without road access to sprawling suburbs carved out of parched earth and desert rock in an attempt to see how the history of the West--binding myths and all--has left its imprint on the West's present condition.

The Pacific Northwest correspondent for the New York Times and a first-rate storyteller, Egan writes with humor and a gimlet eye, proving himself a reliable guide to a wildly diverse region on the cusp of old and new. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a freewheeling, deeply meditative journey across "the big empty" (the 11 contiguous states west of the 100th Meridian), Egan, the Pacific Northwest correspondent for the New York Times, attempts to understand the American West, a place caught between myth and modernity. Beginning in Jackson Hole, Wyo., at a gathering of writers, ranchers and Native Americans debating "the next hundred years in the American West," Egan sets out across the vast landscape, using a different city as a jumping-off point in each chapter. What emerges is a portrait of the new West constantly at odds with the old: defiant cattlemen fight to preserve their dying industry, passing protective laws in the name of "custom and culture"; the residents of Butte, Mont., wait for the toxic waste from a huge abandoned copper mine to overflow and destroy the once-prosperous city; and everywhere ambitious communities such as Las Vegas scramble for more of the precious water that would bring life to the desert?life, that is, in the form of residential complexes with lush grass lawns. Egan's travelogue occasionally ties itself in knots, shifting continuously from past to present in an effort to evoke the multilayered history of the area. But his love for the land is tangible and his erudition impressive. Alongside tales of Indians ousted from their land and corporate plundering are striking factoids (e.g., Ted Turner now owns 1.5% of the state of New Mexico) and shadowy chapters in history, like the 1857 Mountain Meadow Massacre in St. George, Utah, in which over 120 Arkansas emigrants were murdered by Mormon "rescuers" in an attack ordered by church officials, according to Egan. If any effort to capture the American West on the printed page is as futile as the title of this book suggests, Egan's sobering and honest picture at least succeeds in conveying its vitality and myriad contradictions.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

TIMOTHY EGAN is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of seven books, most recently Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, named Best of the Month by His book on the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time, won a National Book Award for nonfiction and was named a New York Times Editors' Choice, a New York Times Notable Book, a Washington State Book Award winner, and a Book Sense Book of the Year Honor Book. He writes a weekly column, "Opinionator," for the New York Times.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#91 in Books > History
#91 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Egan is the rare writer who can easily combine a meaningful and entertaining story.
Philip Carl
It is the sort of writing that makes me very much enjoy reading anything by Timothy Egan.
This book will make you want to save the West, or at least see it before it's gone.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on July 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
I don't often read nonfiction books that make me laugh out loud, but this one did. Egan is something of a gonzo journalist, taking on the vast subject of the American West and finding in it cause for both wonder and humor. The book is a collection of 14 essays, in which the author travels to places in 11 different states, giving readers plenty of local history, descriptions of dramatic landscapes, and a portrayal of "custom and culture" that reels under colliding visions of what the West should be. At every turn, he has an eye for ironies that both reveal and entertain.
After an introduction that takes place at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he begins his journey in New Mexico and Arizona, then moves northward, swinging through Colorado, Montana, and the Great Basin states, ending in California. There is much about cowboys, cattlemen, and Native Americans. We also visit London Bridge at Lake Havasu, an ostrich ranch outside Denver, the pit left behind by the Anaconda copper mining company in Butte, the casinos of Las Vegas, and the site of an appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the back of a road sign in Sunnyside, Washington. There are accounts of fishing in the Bitterroots of Idaho, river rafting on the American River above Sacramento, and hunting for Anasazi petroglyphs in the canyons of the Escalante in Utah.
Meanwhile history comes alive from a colorful and sometimes jaundiced perspective in stories of the conquistador Don Juan de Oñate's conquest of the Indians at Acoma in New Mexico, the massacre of a wagon train of settlers by Mormons at Mountain Meadows, Utah, in the 1860s, and the California Gold Rush. There are historical figures who make vivid appearances, including Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Lewis and Clark, and Brigham Young.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "pontiph02" on November 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am an Australian who has never been to the United States, so I might be coming at this book from a different perspective to many.
I thought the writing was wonderfully evocative, both in the positive descriptions (eg. the Western landscape) and the negative descriptions (eg. the stupidity of cows). I got a real sense of the beauty of the land.
I thought the social and political aspect of the book was also really interesting because it took a view of American history which doesn't assume that you know who Thomas Jefferson was, but still requires some intelligence from the reader. Rather than just rubbishing traditional Western lifestyles, Egan engages with and explores them. He then offers some possible future solutions which are interesting and seem practical.
I found the way Egan combined natural and political and social and demographic history into one whole comprehensible theory fantastic.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Green on June 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a native Californian who has visited most of the places in Egan's book, I can say he got it right. This is one of the best books I've read this year because it cleverly mixes sociology, history, travel book and future-predicting. Between this book and Tony Horwitz' Confederates in the Attic (which is a similarly mixed book about the South) I learned a lot about the South and the West. Now if only someone would take on Northeast and the Midwest...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After reading 'A Good Rain' a number of years ago, I couldn't wait for Egan's next book. And I was not disappointed. Egan casts aside the romantic visions and fanatasies about the real West, and gives his readers a large dose of reality and fact. As with his previous book, I felt myself both incredibly drawn by his accounts, descriptions and history of his subjects - while at the same time agonizing for the atrocities carried out by my predecessors. Egan's prose perfectly captures the geography of the west in a way few authors have been able to.
'Lasso the Wind' falls under the "must read" category for anyone living, working or studying in the West...regardless of whether they are a 5th generation rancher or a 1st generation Sierra Club volunteer.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark DeRespinis on August 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
In choosing his title, Lasso the Wind, Timothy Egan establishes the ironic metaphor for his collection of essays on the New West. Here is an evasive hydra-headed monster of ranchers and cowboys, Indians and explorers, movie stars and utopian visionaries, poets and painters, politicians and poor folk. The multifarious populations are depicted in an epic struggle for identity and definition, where the frenetic forces of politics and economics have destroyed centuries of culture while laying the precarious ground for new dreams. The underlying unity of the fifteen essays that comprise this book is to be found in the historical narratives of redefinition that have made the West a land of layers and buried stories. In his early musings, Egan observes that the vastness of the land has been the source of an almost delusional sense that the land can be anything that the Newcomer wants it to be. And millions of dollars and whole populations of people would shift and groan in the wake of those impulsive creations. In time, the land itself would pose its restrictions and exert a kind of revenge. As the land became part of the United States of America, it was subject to a dizzying barrage of exploitation: digging, damming, cutting, stomping, muddying, mining, fencing, buying, and selling. Now, as these various exploits are exposed, there is a kind of enlightened potential being explored: We can persist and hold tight to old myths and visions, or embrace the new.

In his summary essay on a raft trip down the American River in California, Egan sees the recent denizens of the West "Radically altering the land, living on phony myths, ignoring the best features or trying to kill them.
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