Tag Archives: West

The West as ‘Lonely, Heartbreaking, Scary, Sacred’: Q&A with Rubén Martínez

In her 1985 book, Desert Passages: Encounters with the American Deserts, historian Patricia Nelson Limerick pondered the reactions to the desert from people such as Mark Twain, explorer and surveyor John C. Frémont, irrigation promoter William Ellsworth Smythe, and art historian John Van Dyke. In her introduction she writes, “While the actual landscape is of considerable importance in this story, the intellectual focus rests on the different appearance and meaning available to different viewers.” That passage could describe the running theme of Rubén Martínez’s riveting new book, Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West (Metropolitan Books). “The …Continue reading

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Humanity Bewildered in the Remotest of Places: Erica Olsen’s ‘Recapture’

Erica Olsen’s story collection, Recapture (Torrey House Press, 161 pages), presents the American West as a cabinet of curiosities, containing the artifacts, animals, and lonely people abandoned along man’s quest for the coast. These sixteen diverse tales (one of which, “Reverse Archaeology,” originally appeared in ZYZZYVA) emerge from the geography of America’s remaining vacancies, where the civilized go to escape the mess of civilization. Olsen, acting as chief archeologist, presides over these sparsely populated landscapes. With each story, we gain access to unknown physical and emotional territory.

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