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The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest

Meloy, Ellen

137 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 080504065X / ISBN 13: 9780805040654
Published by Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1999
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Jack Skylark's Books (West Covina, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

The last work of a promising writer is witnessed by the rear jacket blurbs by Wm. Kittredge, Rick Bass, T.T. Williams, and C.L. Rawlins. Book and BroDart protected jacket are very good +, with light bump to the bottom edge of cover and rubbing to the jacket front and rear. First edition / first printing. Ships in bubble wrap in box. Bookseller Inventory # PC 28-14

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and ...

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co., New York

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


From the recipient of the 1997 Whiting Award.

Feeling disconnected from the wildly beautiful desert that she has known intimately for twenty years, award-winning writer Ellen Meloy embarks on a search for home that is historical, scientific, and spiritual. Her "Map of the Known Universe," devised to guide her quest, reveals extraordinary details of a physical link between the atomic age and her home on Utah's San Juan River. The Map grows to include Los Alamos, the Trinity A-test site, White Sands Missile Range, and primary sources of uranium.

Meloy casts her naturalist's eye on the Southwest's "geography of consequence," where she finds unusual local bestiaries, the bodies of long-buried neighbors, an underground bubble of nuclear physics in a national forest, and the rich textures of nature on her own eight acres of land. The story is multilayered and far-reaching, yet always infused with Meloy's prodigious research, finely tuned prose, and wry humor.


Constant exposure to beauty, Ellen Meloy warns, can be a dangerous thing. Which is to say the river runner and natural-history writer found herself not long ago estranged from the rugged red-rock Colorado Plateau country in which she had lived for years. "As if by instinct," she writes, "I had long ago embraced the desert with the full knowledge that neither passion nor beauty comes without risk and that these conditions of being might well burn me right up." To regain her sense of self and place, Meloy embarked on a mission to travel through the cold war Southwest of her youth, its deserts studded with atomic-testing facilities and missile silos, confronting midlife crisis with the strangely comforting thought that Armageddon had once loomed in this dry place and had somehow failed to materialize. Along the way she stops in at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory where the atomic bomb was developed and the Trinity site at which it was first exploded, contrasting the scientific world-view with that of the ancient Anasazi people whose ruins dot the Southwest. Meloy writes with a fine poetic sensibility of the desert's captivating strangeness and of the surreal quality of life at ground zero; her essays touch on biology, physics, literature, spirituality, and psychology in a humane dialogue that readers will find enchanting. --Gregory McNamee

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