There Was a River

Bruce Berger, Author University of Arizona Press $18.95 (198p) ISBN 978-0-8165-1493-9
In Utah's Glen Canyon, moccasins, twilled ring baskets and pottery have given way to Pepsi cans, windsurfers and pleasure boats. The Glen Canyon Dam, hailed as a feat of engineering genius is to some a tragic defeat of nature-an awful irony Berger eloquently captures in his book of essays. In the title piece, the author recalls one of the final raft trips down the Colorado before the dam was built, describing his exploration of hidden chambers and ruins of lost civilizations soon to be drowned beneath the flood waters. ``It becomes incumbent upon us to keep Glen Canyon alive if only as a wound that will not heal, to give us eyes and hearts, the precedent and the rage to defend what is left.'' Berger, who won the 1990 Western States Book Award for The Telling Distance: Conversations with the American Desert, is eloquent, emotional but always reasonable in his examination of the faulty motivations and bureaucratic game-playing behind the project. In other essays, Berger portrays unique characters, such as ``Cactus Pete,'' an Arizona eccentric who maps the mountains of Venus, or ``Squeek,'' a friend from Berger's freelance piano-playing days who holds the Guinness record for most songs played from memory (1,852). Returning to the wild and beautiful country he loves, Berger's last essay laments the trespass of humans, even himself-``In the future I would prefer to be comforted by deserts that are wilder, less abused by myself.'' His skilled language and extraordinary descriptions of this land of ``pink geology'' will captivate readers, even those who have never traveled west of the Mississippi. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1994
Release date: 09/01/1994
Hardcover - 198 pages - 978-0-8165-1469-4
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