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Reviews 63 A River No More: The Colorado River and the West. By Philip L. Fradkin. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. 360 pages, $15.95.) One of the operators of Glen Canyon Dam said to Philip Fradkin, “I refer to it as seepage, not leakage,” describing what Fradkin saw as “wet passageways alive with the sound of running water” within the dam itself. That euphemism characterizes the whole Colorado River controversy, from the original compact in 1922 which based water allotments to Upper and Lower Basin States on more water than there was in the river, to the present. Fradkin presents an authoritative account of the river from beginning to end, approaching the subject with a thoroughness that bespeaks excellence of research, and an even-handedness that is all too often missing in today’s polarized attitudes. In a way. it’s a little like all you ever wanted to know’ about the Colorado River and weren’t going to ask — it is not a book for an idle weekend’s light reading. It is sober and informative. Fradkin lightens the stiff dose of information by perceptive interviews of anyone and everyone associated in any way with the river, plus firsthand field experience. He man­ ages to transmit a sense of the river as a whole, not something that comes easy given its multi-layered complexity. His hindsight description of the trade-off between Glen Canyon Dam and the proposed dam in Dinosaur National Monument is saddening, and everyone who floats the (ireen through Dinosaur should do so with the knowl­ edge of what freedom cost. At times, as when he writes about the Gates of Lodore, his descriptive passages go beyond pure informative writing and become nature writing at its best knowledgeable, sensitive, a personal eval­ uation of a landscape that, no matter how many times one has seen it, always brings fresh reactions. The more a reviewer likes a book, the more it is fashionable to insert a few major caveats, and I am sorry to disappoint — mine is minor and a book design decision which can’t be helped in these days of printing costs. Printing photographs on the same paper as the text dulls them (a few are pedantic to begin with) but many do add another dimension to the understanding of the river system, and perhaps placing them scattered through the text is more important as far as relevance goes than the reproduction. Like so many of our present-day problems, the Colorado River situation seems too vast, too complicated for any one person to handle. Because of his clarity of organization and style, underlaid by solid research, Fradkin has made an outstanding contribution to understanding. He has written a book that ought to be required reading in all college ecology, western history, and political science courses because the Colorado River epitomizes all that has happened, is happening, not only to a great and over-used river but to the West itself. By not preaching, by simply pointing out the way things are, Fradkin has made a more poignant case for the environment than many a more vitriolic and adversary book could have done. Ife has used his considerable 64 Western American Literature talents as an intelligent reporter to organize a vast wealth of material in a readable style that is oftentimes literate and graceful as well. Admittedly, it is a sadder-but-wiser book that leaves one feeling a bit down at the end — and the ending itself is just what it should be. Rut then, that’s the way it is. Mr. Fradkin has written an admirable book, and all of us who care about the West and its rivers are in his debt. ANN H. ZWINGER Colorado Springs, Colorado Writers in Residence: American Authors at Home. By Glynne Robinson Betts. With an Introduction by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt. (New York: A Viking Press Studio Book, 1981. 159 pages, $16.95.) A modest, serious enough coffee-table book, Glynne Betts’s Writers in Residence is at once fascinating for the scope and diversity of American liter­ ature it communicates, and maddening for the arbitrary nature of its selection of authors and inconsistency of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 63-64
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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