cover image One Round River

One Round River

Richard Manning. Henry Holt & Company, $25 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4792-9

Montana's Big Blackfoot River, celebrated in Norman Maclean's classic A River Runs Through It, is now threatened by logging and open-pit gold mining. In his latest book (after Grassland, a socio-biological history of the American prairie), Manning delivers a stirring, erudite eco-polemic that centers on the Blackfoot, which he knows intimately. Like eddies that reveal underlying currents, the writing here reveals more than just one river's potential demise, however. Manning uses the river and its mineral bounty to reflect back an image of our society as one in which we have lost our sense of life's essentials: ""[Gold] is the symbol of excess and excess is what we need to learn to see.... That part of a house that is too big is gold, those extra shoes, gold."" Evocatively written, referencing everything from Greek myths to Native American customs, his book repeatedly demonstrates the connections between mining, the boom-era individual newly ""flush with cash"" and environmental devastation. Manning makes no bones about his purpose: to lay bare gold mining's destruction of the earth so demand for the precious metal will subside. While his book, for all its passion, is unlikely to reach that goal, as Manning recounts the river's history and tells stories of how the Blackfoot has affected his life and those of others, readers cannot help but come away with a clearer picture of the larger circles in which we move and live. Rights (except electronic): Ellen Levine. (Jan.)