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Reviews 67 Texas Jack Omohundro. Yet Mr. Katz gives us no indication of the importance of his discovery, for he tells us only that a black cowboy found his way to the reading public of 1887. He could not have read the Dime Novel. And these are some of my complaints about this book. As I said, it is not a bad book, but it could and should have been so much better. So we must yet wait for a first-rate coverage of The Black West. Philip Durham, University of California} Los Angeles Slickroch. By Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde. (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1971. 144 pages. $27.50). Slickrock is the latest in the Sierra Club’s Exhibit Format Series, and the hardest-hitting. It is a painstaking documentary which names the people and organizations who are wrecking the wilder­ ness in southern Utah, and it is a strikingly sharp and beautiful book of photographs of wild country. The book says the worst crime is to sell out your home; when you live in beauty, in the midst of wilderness, and you sell it to Los Angeles, you go even beyond crime . . . into a weird, half-lit pathology which few have been able to name. Ed Abbey, who does most of the text here, describes the disease with an enlighten­ ing, surgical, bitterly satiric attention to detail. He also has a dramatic sense of the big picture. Students of Western literature and culture will perceive the significance in the fact that the last-to-be-discovered American river, the Escalante, is now under determined attack by dammers, power companies, road builders, and local stockmen who think wilderness classifica­ tion for the river’s watershed would be a take-over by outsiders. Nearby, the last-to-be-discovered mountain range in the 48 states, the Henry Mountains, awaits a similar fate. The ultimate wilder­ nesses, remnants of once-vast mystery and once-robust health, are going under. This is no exaggeration; it is really happening. So Slickrock is urgent. It is also a polemic with style and humor: I’ve been pretty hard on businessmen and bureaucrats in this little essay. At least I’ve tried to be. My only regret is that I’ve probably not been hard enough. . . . 68 Western American Literature Some of these men, when you meet them, turn out to be exactly what you would expect. I know one small businessman in Moab (and sometimes there's nothing smaller than a small businessman) who has lived there for seventeen years and has yet to see Dead Horse Point, Lavender Canyon, Behind-the-Rocks or anything else of interest beyond the town limits. H e’s been too busy, he says, making money six days a week and going to church twice every Sunday. But he is full of opinions on where new roads should be built (everywhere), who should decide such things (local people only), and who should pay for them (the rest of us). The really compelling conservation arguments, it seems, spring from personal experience of wilderness; they are written in con­ sonance with the wild base, in prose of directness and sharply de­ fined physical texture. John Muir, and of course Henry David Thoreau before him, wrote that way; Abbey talks the same lang­ uage. The critical analysis in Slickrock is effective because the loved places, the places going under, have been well and truly seen. The canyon curves deeply to the left and right, sinuous as a snake, no more willing to follow a straight line than is anything else true and beautiful and good in this world. The walls curve not only laterally, with the winding of the stream-bed, but also vertically, parallelling each other like the surfaces of a ball and socket. Where a wall is deeply undercut it forms something like the inside of a half-dome. Standing inside one of these alcoves, which may be hun­ dreds of feet high, you will not be able to see the sky at all; the light is reflected and refracted from the opposite canyon wall, creating a strange golden ambience with the chamber. Philip Hyde’s photographs are a...


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