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Reviews 143 accounts of the quests of such idols as Christopher Columbus and Buffalo Bill — only to knock them soundly off their dusty pedestals. More recently, increasing numbers in this society have tried to turn back to the earth for spiritual sustenance. The resistance they’ve encountered is understandable, Turner says, since they are at odds with centuries of cul­ tural tradition. At the same time, Turner sees the land advocates as a logical outgrowth of that tradition and implies that their numbers are likely to grow. “Only when the New World had been pruned and leveled so that none need fear becoming lost in it, and its remnant natives had been disarmed and corralled could Europeans begin to rest easy in their possession. And it was at that moment in our history that we began to experience the spiritual enormity of what had been done here,” Turner says. Few readers will swallow whole Turner’s analysis of the Western men­ tality. He’s too quick to condemn Christianity, too ready to embrace the cultures it conquered and too eager to ignore evidence that might challenge his contentions. But readers may very well find themselves questioning attitudes about certain episodes of our history that they swallowed whole at some earlier time. They’ll certainly enjoy the vivid writing with which Turner places his worrisome chinks in America’s armor. JOAN NICE, Lander, Wyoming Good News. By Edward Abbey. (New York: Dutton, 1980. 242 pages, $5.95.) Good News is a novel of the Apocalypse, with its setting in and around a dying Phoenix of the post-industrial, post-Christian world. The world-wide technological machine has collapsed, and in America, the wealthiest nation of all, “the harshest changes came to the few but precarious, monstrous cities that had once appeared, briefly, in that nation’s arid West . . . .” Now, in Phoenix, all is in ruins: coyotes slink through the empty streets where cacti grow from cracks in the asphalt (as vines sprout in the streets in Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins) ; cattle graze on the abandoned golf courses, now reverting to desert; burned-out stores and skyscrapers dot the skyline; unburned buildings are smashed and looted; the streets are filled for miles in all directions with broken glass; abandoned cars, trucks, recrea­ tional vehicles silently decompose in the disintegrating streets, “becoming air and dust and history” ; the sand dunes drift fifty feet a year from the southwest, inexorably reclaiming the city, as Abbey prophesied in Desert Solitaire. The forces of nature remain intact: . . from beyond, from far 144 Western American Literature beyond, surrounding the city’s disintegration, comes the murmuring stillness of the desert, the eternal dialogue of the wind and the sands.” Most of the city’s population have fled eastward in search of food, but a few men and women remain, . . . trying to rebuild the simple farming and pastoral economy that had been destroyed by the triumph of the city, trying to re-create a small society of friends in a community of mutual aid and shared ownership of land. But when old Jack Burns and Sam Banyaca, a Harvard-educated Hopi shaman, ride into the city, an ancient human aspiration has reasserted itself: the drive for power, for absolute control of mankind and for techno­ logical subjugation of the environment. An ex-professor and ex-Air Force general, the Chief, has assembled a highly disciplined mercenary army and has assumed control of the city and the surrounding countryside by a system of ruthless terror. Jack and Sam ride into “the oldest civil war of all, that between the city and the country.” Jack is looking for Charlie, the son he has not seen since the boy was a child, and he finds him the Chief’s second-in-command, planning with the Chief for Operation Coronado, a move eastward across the continent to seize the great, disorganized, decaying cities and the food-producing areas, in order to reestablish the old United States — this time on a completely scientific, technological basis, under firm military discipline. The Chief’s ultimate goal is not America or the world, however, but the universe itself. Jack appeals in vain to his...


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pp. 143-145
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