Sundown Legends

Michael Checchio, Author Thomas Dunne Books $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-20593-5
Throughout this account of a monthlong tour of the American Southwest, Checchio (A Clean, Well-Lighted Stream) seems stuck in a bad mood. He sets out from San Francisco in a rented Chevy Blazer to explore the deserts and canyons of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. His tour covers so much ground so quickly that it ends up feeling like a one-night stand with the vast landscape; just for starters he bombs across the Mojave (which he describes as the ""Big Nothing""), peeks over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and gets a flat changed in Zion National Park. Checchio's descriptions of the land feel similarly hurried, and his comments can be hostile and insensitive, especially when it comes to people. He spends too much time harping about other tourists' bad habits, the worst of which seems to be their decision to visit the same sites he's visiting. In fact, no one but historical figures and writers he respects survive his judgment unscathed. For example, he flippantly equates artists in Santa Fe with sex offenders, reduces Congress and the Bureau of Land Management to a group of wilderness haters, declares that Americans ""are monolingual, and proud of it"" and blithely stereotypes Native Americans. At times Checchio attempts to capture the power of the desert around him, but he always seems to give up, leaving readers with an exasperating ride through a landscape that deserves, and has gotten, much better treatment. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-312-27397-2
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