Beyond The Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell And The Second Opening Of The West
ISBN: 0140159940
EAN13: 9780140159943
Language: English
Release Date: Mar 1, 1992
Pages: 496
Dimensions: 1" H x 7.7" L x 5" W
Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Format: Paperback
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Book Overview

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Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner recounts the remarkable career of Major John Wesley Powell, the distinguished ethnologist and geologist who explored the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, and the homeland of the Southwest Indian tribes. This classic work is a penetrating and insightful study of Powell's career, from the beginning of the Powell Survey, in which Powell and his men famously became the first to descend the Colorado River, to his eventual ouster from the Geological Survey. In masterful prose, Stegner details the expedition, as well as the philosophies and ideas that drove Powell. A prophet without honor who had a profound understanding of the American West, Powell warned long ago of the dangers economic exploitation would pose to the West--and he spent a good deal of his life battling Washington politics to get his message across. Only now may we recognize just how accurate a prophet he was.

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Book Reviews (16)

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   Important book regarding Western water
Powell's biography of Stegner describes Powell's career in a largely engaging way. It is not a page turner, but it gives you a good feel for the man. I read it the most, as I appreciated it at the Grand Canyon, while reading the Cadillac Desert simultaneously. Powell describes how Stegner, a one-armed man, leads a rafting expedition down the Colorado River, complete with climbing the sides of the Grand Canyon. Although some of the descriptions come across these days as a bit quaint, it is a valuable work. When he writes about Reisner in the Cadillac desert, Powell borrows from the story and its structure extensively.
   Still a classic, though a little frayed
This is still a must-read for serious river rats, showing how our faith in the big rock candy mountain exceeded the evidence before our eyes as we developed the West. This book was written in the early 1950s and two age signs were apparent. First, Stegner had not seen many of the river sections he describes, including the Grand Canyon of Colorado and the Desolation - Green section of the reeve. The boom in commercial river running now makes many of us more expert on this topical kind of fun than Stegner! Secondly, and less fun, the old boy has many subtle ways of downplaying the importance of women in the story. Small example : Powell names Powell's brothers, but mentions only the number of sisters, though their roles in the story are all quite small. Still a fascinating story ''.
   A Dissapointment
And I am a geologist. So, I thought that this book would be really great. I was wrong, Boy. Stegner packed this book with far too many names and dates for it to be interesting at all. He spends most of the book hemming and hawing about DC politics in the late 19th century and glosses over the history of the West and the Survey. To top it off, his tone seems very smug ; it is like he just wanted to impress the reader with his wordplay.
   A bit dry and tedious at times
A bit drying and tedious at times, but probably more so due to the time it was written than the subject matter.
   A classic account of misguided policy
This is a classic. Stegner is not only a biography, but a cogent indictment of the U.S. government's growth-oriented boosterism and capitalism in the interior. The results of this blindness can be seen today in the absurdities of the water-hungry urban economies of Phoenix and Las Vegas plundered in the middle of the desert. As Powell makes clear, Stegner predicted these inanities and would certainly appreciate their ironies today.
   Excellent History of John Wesley Powell
Wallace Wallace Stegner is one of the most prominent American writers, both as a novelist and historian. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian is a groundbreaking history of John Wesley Powell, not only the explorer of the American West, but also an individual who developed scientific method and documentation in its discovery. Stegner has accompanied Powell and others, the political treatises and measurements, and the primary environments that have produced federal policies for the settlement of the American West. Evans was himself an eloquent environmentalist influenced greatly by his studies with Stegner, especially the studies of water and settlements of the American West. It is a well-run history of Powell, the exploration of the Colorado River and politics-a history that has contemporary merit as western states confront population growth, drought and water allocations.
   A "Why Have I Not Heard of This Before?" Book
It was first published in 1954 and is still a must-read for understanding Western USA. Stegner's contribution to the advancement of science is impressive and John Wesley Powell's extensive research is remarkable. This book is far more than an adventure story by John Wesley Powell, although Stegner conveys the riveting excitement of Powell's explorations. But Powell also shows how Stegner understood that the land use and water rights policies that worked in the eastern states were doomed to failure in the west. But most impressive is how Powell discovered Stegner's towering achievement in the advancement of science and the establishment of government agencies such as the US Geological Survey.
   Great Topic - Too Much Information
I enjoyed several of John Wesley Powell's books and was looking forward to this look at Stegner's foresight on water issues in the West. I enjoyed thoroughly some of the earlier parts in the book, where Powell's travels were detailed along the Colorado River and parts of the Southwest, but this book became mostly an ordeal to finish. Before writing this book, Stegner obviously did an incredible amount of research, and he must have been extremely interested in his topic. He was certainly covered, but for my interests he was just TOO THOROUGH. Things about which I did gain some insight, though, were politics and federal involvement that led to the great Northern California water projects of my youth in the 1950s. A big problem that plagued Powell at the close of the 1800s and puzzled Stegner when he wrote the book in the early 1950s. Today, TOO many people for the available water supply still remains.
   History of water in the west; rollicking adventure story
Stegner is a prolific historian of the American West, as well as a prolific writer of fiction. In my mind, his non-fiction is always a notch better than even the best of his fiction. In my mind, the best of the lot is beyond the Hundredth Meridian. To be sure, my view that this is his best is probably colored by my impression that it deals with the most important issues within Stegner's uvre, namely the question of water use in the American West. Independent of the book's importance in understanding the history of water use, it is also a rollicking adventure story of a one-armed madman shooting hellacious rapids the likes of which our continent no longer knows while strapped to a wooden boat. Powell was a brilliant, eccentric man, and the United States would be a better place if the policies he proposed had been implemented intelligently.
   Powell Looks Even Wiser 100 Years Later
This book, written in 1954, captures not only the story of this remarkable man, Major John W. Powell, but also discusses and reflects on the challenges of too many people living in the Western Desert. As a resident of a now drought-prone state, the wisdom of Powell's ideas and the lack of implementation of these ideas are represented in the chaos that local and state governments face as they attempt to keep lawns green, golf courses open and drinking water for all new residences of the state. I only hope that some of this generations'politicians pay attention to Powell's topographical analysis and begin to formulate more effective land and water policy for the west. A great read with many classic quotes by Stegner.