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The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest Paperback – November 1, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Here is a book that keeps people inside natural history where they belong, with all of our gifts and our hubris. In the author's search to understand the role of the Southwest in the nuclear age, she touches a universal humanism beyond the usual confines of nature writing. (What could be more anti-human than an atomic bomb?)
Meloy's tongue-in-cheek phrases, wit and sense of irony may elude the more literal-minded and politically rigid who expect but won't get a polemic. In a few instances this playfulness weakens her serious conclusions about the bomb era in American history (although humor may be used as a catharsis for so horrific a scenario as nuclear war). Best are her fair-handed and lyrical images of the physical world and of places like Los Alamos, the Trinity bomb site in New Mexico, the Utah canyons and her own home acreage, which as a cattle pasture next to town and a graveyard is hardly a wilderness. The weeds and the Pennzoil bottles play starring roles in this funny chapter.
This book inspired me to pay attention, to look harder at our past, present and future. It's well worth reading.
The contrast between the awesome, quiet beauty of the desert and its use to develop weapons of mass destruction is a supreme contradiction that drives Meloy on a journey that takes her to ground zero at White Sands Missile Range, Los Alamos, and a natural gas field bounded by Navajo, Ute, and Apache reservations. The book closes on a walkabout across the mesas and through canyons near her home in the San Juan River valley, which cuts across the Southwest's Four Corners.
Also a surprise is the ironic humor she brings to the subject. While never forgetting the threat to survival of humanity that nuclear weapons represent, Meloy also marvels at the incongruities in the details of a story that encompasses the worlds of physicists, environmentalists, biologists, geologists, naturalists, anthropologists, Native Americans, tourists, and the ordinary working people and residents of present-day small towns and rural areas. On a parallel course with the story she tells are the incongruities of her own story, which starts with the accidental scalding death of a lizard in a coffee cup and ends on a high bluff in a tumultuous electrical storm.Read more ›
She also teases and twits, writing "In town a flying wedge of mountain bikers, dressed in painted-on spandex body gloves mail-ordered from Bulgarian sex manuals, overshot their mecca to the north, and ended up here, spreading the gospel of polymers and finding no converts in a land clearly devoid of granola and decent trails."
Quoting one of her other humorous passages about her Utah desert home, where she lives with her husband, she writes:
"I inhabit a place where there is not much chance of being eaten by large mammals. So far the possibility of a golf course is slim. The popular media are action videos and pulp info-dramas dished out by satellite. Say "Kierkegaard" around here, and some of us might think you are choking on a walnut. In town a mix of cultures, an artistic bent, and an unexpected worldliness breed a loose-jointed tolerance. In the surrounding country, values fall into the category of ultraconservative rural western,underlain with Utah's insular Mormon theocracy. In the county seat the building that houses local government shares its town block with the building that hosts the predominant faith: the distance between church and state is precisely 34.5 feet.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Like the southwest from which Meloy draws her sense of self, like mortality and its hopes and fears, it must be personally experienced. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Todd Warnke
Ellen Meloy is one of the greatest nature writers contemporary USA has produced. I admire the way she blends social and political analysis of salient events with environmental and... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Rosemary sandford
An amazing writer . I have read all her books and highly recommend her!Published 21 months ago by D. Robin Toews
This book is very informative and entertaining about the effects of weapons testing in the west. The writing style is enjoyable to read. Recommend this book to all nature lovers.Published on January 23, 2014 by Kathleen B. RAFFOUL
Looking for a nature series that will hold your attention with every word? Looking for an author that writes like she thinks? Read morePublished on September 3, 2011 by Dan Nussbaum
Odd book - a kind of oil and water mix of anti-human politics and natural history of a small portion of the American southwest. Read morePublished on August 8, 2001 by USAF Veteran
Meloy's book is refreshing, humorous, and critical all at the same time. Superb imagery guides Meloy's writing as well as the reader throughout the Southwest exploring both the... Read morePublished on January 18, 2000 by Nate Sosa