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A Story That Stands Like a Dam: Glen Canyon and the Struggle for the Soul of the West Hardcover – October, 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1988 more than three million people visited Lake Powell; the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona is the most popular federal preserve in the interior West, outdrawing Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. An engineering marvel, the Glen Canyon Dam, dedicated in 1966, also represents wholesale destruction of a unique wilderness area. Its construction brought about and consolidated the environmental movement nationwide, and it was probably the last project of its kind, a swan song for the Bureau of Reclamation. Martin, author of Cowboy: The Enduring Myth of the West , gives a well-balanced account of building the dam, the controversy it caused and assessment of its value today (opinion divided). His lively narrative introduces us to engineers, environmentalists and politicians, all colorful characters. Readers who enjoyed Philip Fradkin's A River No More or Joseph Stevens's Hoover Dam should not miss this story.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Completed in 1963, the Glen Canyon Dam is a symbol of the conflict between progress and preservation which dogs virtually every Western water project. Fledgling conservation organizations, particularly the Sierra Club, organized public opposition to the dam, which provided water to six dry Western states but also flooded out some beautiful canyon lands. Martin puts the dam project into historical perspective and presents a balanced review of its benefits and liabilities. He also discusses the dominant personalities on both sides of the conflict: the Sierra Club's David Brower, Federal Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Floyd Dominy (two men John McPhee profiled in Encounters with the Archdruid , Farrar, 1971), and Interior Secretary Stewart Udall. A good choice for the public policy collections of public and academic libraries, this book is especially relevant for Southwestern libraries.-- Laurie Tynan, Montgomery Cty.
Norristown P.L., Pa.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st edition (October 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805008225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805008227
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Russell Martin directed and produced the award-winning documentary film BEAUITUFL FACES, which received the Humanitarian Outstanding Achievement Award from the Accolade Global Film Awards and is being broadcast by television stations around the world. He produced and co-wrote the award-winning documentary film TWO SPIRITS, which was featured on the PBS series "Indepdendent Lens" and won the 2011 season's Audience Award.

He has written for Time, the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, and National Public Radio, and is the award-winning, internationally published author of two critically acclaimed novels, THE SORROW OF ARCHAEOLOGY and BEAUTIFUL ISLANDS, as well as many nonfiction books. His nonfiction book BEETHOVEN'S HAIR, a United States bestseller and a Washington Post Book of the Year, has been published in twenty-one translated editions and is the subject of a Gemini-award-winning film of the same name.

His highly acclaimed book PICASSO'S WAR has been published in seven international editions; OUT OF SILENCE, was named by the Bloomsbury Review as one of fifteen best books of its first fifteen years of publication, and A STORY THAT STANDS LIKE A DAM: Glen Canyon and the Struggle for the Soul of the West, won the Caroline Bancroft History Prize.

His books have been optioned by Robert Redford's Wildwood Enterprises, the Denver Center Theatre Company, and New World Television. He is, says Kirkus Reviews, "first and foremost a masterful storyteller."

When he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Colorado College in 1995, the citation read, in part, "Mr. Martin offers to general audiences precise and accurate, but highly readable, studies of extraordinarily complex issues. He does more: he sees beyond what is already known; he moves beyond synthesis to new insights. His work is disciplined, analytical, and creative. It is also profoundly humane."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Morgan on November 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Martin's book is a good rendering of the planning, construction, completion, and opposition to the Glen Canyon Dam. The book is a good historical work, though I didn't find it a compelling read, like "Cadillac Desert". Martin's best prose is when he descibes life in the town of Page during the construction of the dam, with rich details about life in a government town in the middle of the desert. Very enjoyable read even if you wish Glen Canyon Dam would fall back into the canyon. Can make you appreciate fully the people who built it and the people who opposed it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Martin provides a thorough history of events leading up to the dam's construction as well as the history of that construction.

It's well researched, and does not grind environmental or other axes, so will be good reading for people who bring a variety of viewpoints to the question of whether Glen Canyon deserves a doff of the hat or some dynamite from Hayduke.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By dorothy m. magirl on March 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
THIS is a thoroughly gripping history of a great and fantastically beautiful river of the American Southwest, and of the powerful human beings locked in a bitter struggle over it, all their massive efforts to control it and equally determined efforts of those who did not want it controlled. Its climax is the completion of the monumental Glen Canyon Dam and the creation of Lake Powell, with a water storage capacity of 27 MILLION acre feet an a power-generating capacity to supply the needs of vast numbers of people and businesses over a vast range of our country. It is wrong to sugests that there are any villians in the story, but clearly, there are many heroic figures in a collosal struggle of competing interests, from the Sierra Club's David Brower, conservationist turned environmentalist, to the Bureau of Reclamation's Floyd Dominy, to prime contractor Merritt, Chapman Scott's chief engineer, Lem Wylie who got the job done despite the fact that the corporation went belly-up at the end. And it has politicians and statesmen-politicians from Colorado's Wayne Aspinall to Arizona's Stewart Udall and Barry Goldwater. Even Holywood with Charlton Heston and John Wayne, mercifully in bit sub-plots, grace a page or two. Every person even remotely interested in the history of our country's development and the beauty of the place it unfolded, should read Russell Martin's, "The Story That Stands Like a Dam."
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By Mike Smith on September 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is absolutely loaded with information on Glen Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, and Page, Arizona--the nearby town of dambuilders. Its author has tried incredibly hard, and succeeded, at writing a book that is unbelievably fair, and that presents the controversial story of the building of Glen Canyon Dam in as truthful and as unbiased a light as possible.

Russell Martin, the book's author, doesn't even mention (until the book's end) whether the book's main characters--the dambuilders and the conservationists--are republicans or democrats; this allows those characters to escape the stigma those labels would bring, and allows the reader to consider the characters just on what they did and what they said, and not instantly dismiss them because they're political parties may not be our own.

This book is beautifully researched, written as a gripping narrative, and well-worth reading--though I have to add that it's so full of information that about three-quarters of the way through the book I experienced a brief feeling of being absolutely glutted on facts about the subject.

This is an excellent book though, and I would recommend it (along with Jared Farmer's "Glen Canyon Dammed") to anyone interested in the subject of this controversy.
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