IN NEVADA: The Land, the People, God and Chance
AbeBooks Seller Since November 6, 1997Quantity Available: 1
AbeBooks Seller Since November 6, 1997Quantity Available: 1
About this Item
Title: IN NEVADA: The Land, the People, God and ...
Publisher: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. dj
Publication Date: 1999
Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: 1st Edition
About this title
Part contemplation of an America both austere and flamboyant, part love letter to the Old West, part idiosyncratic travel guide, David Thomson's In Nevada has the unorthodox brilliance we have come to expect from this acclaimed novelist (Suspects et al.) and chronicler of the entire film world (in his A Biographical Dictionary of Film and his lives of Orson Welles and David O. Selznick).
At once examining and experiencing Nevada, Thomson finds its people, its landscape, and the unexpected questions it inspires equally provocative. He shows us the historical Nevada -- a classic Wild West, attracting Spanish missionaries, Mormons, uprooted Native Americans, explorers, and silver miners -- and the contemporary influx of cultists, druggies, survivalists, and fortune hunters whose quests lead directly to the gaming table.
We see Nevada as a place of no-holds-barred experimentation, both social (gambling, prostitution, easy divorce, no taxes) and scientific (nuclear testing and storage of nuclear waste). We see suburbanites rubbing shoulders with sybarites; the natural beauty of Lake Tahoe, shadowed by the financial edifice of tourism; criminals, entertainers, and hotel impresarios sharing dreams of glory (and the memory of Bugsy Siegel and Frank Sinatra).
Thomson traverses Nevada's vastness before approaching Las Vegas and its close neighbor the Nevada Test Site -- the glow of the first reflected in the skies just as the legacy of the second haunts our atmosphere. In Las Vegas we meet everyone from exhausted careerists in search of solace to outlaws seeking crowd cover. "If you were to order a summary raid on the contents of all the cars parked at all the casino hotels," writes Thomson, "no one would be amazed if the haul included several cases stuffed with money, enough AK-47s for a military mission, the manuscripts of great novels, a few bodies, and enough military-strength toxins to take out a moderate-sized South American republic."
In Nevada is a revelation of the gambler's mix of hope and anxiety, of the isolation and closeness, the beauty and banality, the fact and fancy at the heart of the state -- and the state of mind -- of Nevada.
That one of the first acts of the territorial government was to construct a prison reveals much about the early American inhabitants of Nevada. Originally composed mainly of restless prospectors, explorers, and outlaws, the populace resented the efforts of federal authorities to impose uniform law and order, as well as statehood, on a region it deemed its own. Though the feds ultimately won out, the sentiment stuck, and Nevada continues to operate by its own set of cultural and political standards. This compromise, explains David Thomson, makes the state essential to the rest of the nation:
Nevada is on the edge, on the wire, off to one side, in the empty quarter, or even in the rest of the country's head as an idea, a possibility, an alternative. It is an experiment, or a kind of theater.... for America has used Nevada as a testing ground, and not just for weapons and their destructiveness but also for new social ideas, and their explosiveness. What happens if you allow divorce, prostitution, gambling? Can there be community and purpose if you encourage things deep in human nature yet supposedly alien to order and togetherness? Don't we need to find out?Much of the union's most rapidly growing state remains a mystery. Area 51, for instance, just 50 miles northwest of the Las Vegas neon, is a chunk of desert larger than Connecticut, forbidden to anyone without official government clearance. Such desolation defines much of the state, whether or not off-limits. Indeed, "it is the deep and ultimate vacancy of the place that stimulates storytelling," says Thomson, and to prove his point, he covers topics as varied as the Burning Man Festival, Frank Sinatra, pugilism, conspiracy theories, alleged UFO storage facilities, nuclear waste, and gambling, to name precious few.
Thomson's meandering style is well suited to the subject. Moving easily from the floor of a frenetic casino to the loneliest stretch of highway, his compelling stories and observations convey "the power of Nevada as a place and as an idea." The result is an absorbing and amusing tour rife with surprises. "I hope I may leave you wanting to go there, to be there, to see and feel it for yourself," he writes. In Nevada undoubtedly succeeds. --Shawn Carkonen
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