The Last Cheater's Waltz
Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest
In this abundant space and isolation, the energy lords extract their bounty of natural resources, and the curators of mass destruction once mined their egregious weapons and reckless acts. It is a land of absolutes, of passion and indifference, lush textures and inscrutable tensions. Here violence can push beauty to the edge of a razor blade. . . . Thus Ellen Meloy describes a corner of desert hard by the San Juan River in southeastern Utah, a place long forsaken as implausible and impassable, of little use or value—a place that she calls home. Despite twenty years of carefully nurtured intimacy with this red-rock landscape, Meloy finds herself, one sunbaked morning, staring down at a dead lizard floating in her coffee and feeling suddenly unmoored. What follows is a quest that is both physical and spiritual, a search for home.
"A thoughtful recounting of one woman’s travels in the post-Cold War American West . . . Meloy’s wanderings take her to the back roads of the desert Southwest, to hidden canyons where Navajo witchcraft and toxic waste reign side by side, and to little towns where uranium miners wait for cancer to claim them. . . . Meloy has not only rediscovered her connection to the badlandsshe’s also made a fine book in the bargain." Kirkus Reviews"Meloy celebrates the stark beauty and plumbs the deadly ironies of the Colorado Plateau with words as piercing as the thorns of a claret-cup cactus. Her prickly, penetrating style reflects a deep but unsentimental love for the land she shares with bighorn sheep and Navajo skinwalkers. . . . An intense regional attachment has rarely carried weightier global implications." Booklist"A painful juxtaposition of natural beauty and warrior wastelands." New York Times Book Review"Eloquent, enlightening, full of irony and insight." Portland Oregonian"Not only is it well constructed and finely written, it is filled with ideas and perceptions that should wake the sleepy intellect in anyone with an open, inquisitive mind. And some of her passages are pure poetry." Santa Fe New Mexican