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3 5 4 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e F a l l 2 0 0 5 of this era (xii). A recession in the early nineties, the result of cuts in defense spending, gave way to a broad recovery and budget surpluses; but hard times returned again with the looting of California’s power system and treasury by “the boys from Texas.” A new governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, faces many of the same problems encountered earlier by Pete Wilson and Gray Davis. Through the nineties, the state wrestled with diminished school funding (the legacy of the infamous Proposition 13) and with uncontrolled immigration that placed additional stress on its educational system. The state was further tested by eternal environmental issues—earthquake, fire, and drought—only to be matched by social trauma—riots in Los Angeles, a scandal in the LAPD, and rising gang violence everywhere. Yet these years also saw a growth in new businesses, much of it resulting from the energy of its new immigrants, which helped to replace the losses in defense jobs. New models emerged for housing and public space, cities were revitalized, and splendid works of architecture appeared. As a new governor takes office, California may have become “a reality in search of a lost myth that had been once believed in, had been lost, but never fully repudiated” (629). However, California remains the model for the nation’s future, an “ecumenopolis,” a world commonwealth. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in California’s recent past or who is concerned for its future. Starr’s usual skill in creating a synthesis ofvast amounts ofdata, in creating a focus both sharp and deep, is much evident here. Though his vision may have turned darker, one is reminded of Melville’s Catskill eagle of the soul: though it flies into the blackest gorges, it soars. Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Qrasslands. By John Price. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 118 pages, $20.00. Reviewed by Matthew J. C. Celia University of Connecticut, Storrs Price’s aim for this book—a thoughtfully-crafted mixture of memoir, literary analysis, and interviews with four prominent midwestem writers—is to “bear witness to the beginning of one writer’s commitment to place” (ix). His focus, in other words, is not necessarily on what it means to be committed to a place but on the process of awakening to and striving toward that commitment. His own awakening, as he describes it in the first chapter, occurs when he observes the effects of a destructive summer flood in his home state of Iowa. Amid the farms and neighborhoods damaged by the floodwaters, Price witnesses the revival of the prairie wilderness through the flood’s creation of temporary wet­ lands. As the floodwaters recede, however, the “wetlands become cornfields, the sudden wilderness become[sJ tame,” instilling in Price a “longing for the lost land” (5). This experience provides the catalyst for the central question his B o o k R e v ie w s book attempts to answer: how does one translate this longing into a sustained commitment to a damaged environment? As Price outlines his own emergent sense of place in the American grass­ lands, he underscores the importance of developing an intimacy with two central aspects of the bioregion: its topographical features and the “map of words” that illustrate how the “land has taken shape over time in the human imagination” (13). Over the next several chapters, Price looks closely at the winding paths to commitment paved by four contemporary midwestem writ­ ers: Dan O’Brien, Linda Hasselstrom, William Least Heat-Moon, and Mary Swander. Each of these writers possesses unique connections to the grasslands, and each seeks something different from the place, but collectively their stories teach Price about regional responsibility and, perhaps more important, about how to cultivate this responsibility through language. In his discussions with these authors and through his analyses of their autobiographical writings, Price locates for himself an environmental literary heritage upon which to build his own relationship to this...


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pp. 354-355
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