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 describIn 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.
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

  • Title: The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest
  • Author: Ellen Meloy
  • ISBN: 9780816521531
  • Page: 171
  • Format: Paperback
  • 1 thought on “The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest”

    1. I enjoy a book that surprises me, and this one did that. At first glance you expect it to be a book of nature writing about the Southwest deserts. However, the quirky title should be a give away. Meloy's subject is the relationship between the arid regions of the American Southwest and the birth of the nuclear age. Not a duck-and-cover memoir of someone growing up in the 1950s, this book is a thoughtful inquiry into what is for the author a great irony: that nuclear weaponry emerged from uranium [...]

    2. So beautiful. I love this book. Poetry meets apocalyptic landscape born of the Manhattan Project. Great writing. Funny but sad.

    3. I always decide whether or not I want to read a book within the first few paragraphs. Very few books have ever drawn me in as quickly as The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest by Ellen Meloy. Rather than "review" this book, I will simply let you preview this opening sequence and let you decide whether or not you want to read it: "One morning in a rough-hewn, single-room screenhouse, in a cottonwood grove but a few wingbeats beyond the San Juan River, I poured scald [...]

    4. I didn't understand everything that I read in this book; some of the science was beyond what I am familiar with, some of her thoughts were too lofty or confused for me to follow.However, I am familiar with the fear of nuclear war. I grew up hiding under the school desks during nuclear war attack drills, and listening to the weekly testing of the air raid sirens. It was like this big amorphous fear that underlie all of normal daily life. I didn't know the details of the testing that was being don [...]

    5. All four of Meloy's books are fantastic. This one is closest to my heart because she treks through the atomic geography of my childhood: the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico. Meloy died suddenly of a heart attack in 2004 after writing four books. I have an essay about her writing at Bloom where I discuss all of the books. In my opinion, she's an overlooked American writer and was even during her lifetime. She came to my attention with The Anthropology of Turquoise, which was nominated for a Pulit [...]

    6. "I am never able to tell the difference between luminosity and lunacy," How I love the way Ellen Meloy soars into the visionary phrase like this: "The rich, far-lost beauty of my home curved my breath." And at the same time she is hilarious about being vertiginously exposed on a mesa's edge in a lightening storm. How I love Ellen Meloy.

    7. Another outstanding book about the Southwest by Ellen Meloy. Her lyrical writing is so descriptive--both sad and humorous. Much of the book is framed around her visits to Los Alamos and the Trinity site where people labored to create some that could destroy everything. She was obviously a tormented soul but also saw beauty in lizards, snakes and even spiders.

    8. Feeling unmoored in familiar surroundings, Ellen Meloy embarks on a journey to find what teathers us to this world and what informs our consciousness. It is story told with the lyricism, beauty, and expansiveness of the landscape of it's setting. Ellen Meloy is in the pantheon of great American nature writers and philosophers.

    9. From the outset, when author Ellen Meloy discovers she has boiled a lizard to death in her mug while making her morning cup of coffee, I began to realize that this book was not exactly what I had been anticipating. I had to respect the poise with which she dealt with that surprise, saving the dried lizard as the marker for her home on her knowledge map and later making respectful references to it throughout the book. It said much about her attitude regarding nature and her relationship with it.F [...]

    10. I first read Ellen Meloy in 2007 (Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild), and decided I was going to hitchhike to the San Juan River and apprentice myself to this person who could write like this about my southern Utah desert. And then I read she had died three years before, and felt lost and angry she wasn't following around desert bighorn anymore and couldn't teach me how to live the life I wanted to live.She calls the desert southwest a cheater, but what makes Meloy meaningful to [...]

    11. Normally I would not read naturalist nonfiction, not in a million years. In this case however, Meloy is an engaging and personal author, so much so that it makes it easy to personalize things as distant as 300 million year old wildlife. If I were looking to learn more on this particular subject, I would definitely chase down a few more of her books. However, I feel a little natural-scienced-out with just this one title. Maybe I'd enjoy it more paired with a long trip to southern Utah and hours t [...]

    12. Meloy's books are so confusing, I waver between loving her brilliance and being put off by the stream of consciousness babble that occurs throughout the pages.In this book, Meloy constructs a map of her Known Universe and seeks to find her place within it. Wholly, the book is supposed to be about the violence enacted upon the Southwest by governmental ambitions for nuclear warfare, but like most of her books it is mostly a collection of natural observations and lamentations about the lack of con [...]

    13. The strength of The Last Cheater's Waltz is in Meloy's command of language and her sense of humor. She focuses on the nuclear testing grounds in New Mexico, and the Map of the Known World, of her property in Utah, all with a keen eye and a true love of the land. Her exploration into the nuances of a place perceived as desolate is an absorbing foray into nature writing that doesn't fetishize the landscape but tries to locate the reason why we're drawn to places we would deem our home. Her essays [...]

    14. This was a re-read of this book, my first reading of it was in 1999 and it has been on my bookshelf since then. Ellen Meloy writes with great intelligence and a vast knowledge of many subjects. The book itself is 90% poetry, 70% views of a naturalist, 50% science journalist. An interesting mix. The only drawback to this book I can see is my own impatience as a reader.

    15. Excellent! I have now read all three of Ellen Meloy's books. All are exceptionable and have been books that I want to share with family and friends. This book is centered in the desert southwest and covers Trinity and the story behind the atomic bomb or more truthfully the site at which it was created. Having read Hiroshima earlier this year this was sequenced before that horrible tragedy.

    16. This book takes a different look at the Southwest by looking at the desert after it was transformed by Trinity, the 1st Nuclear tests in New Mexico.

    17. Wonderful, but disturbing topic. I didn't know about the radioactive beagles. : ( Ellen Meloy is my hero (heroine)!

    18. Just not a style of writing I can fall into easily--for me it was a chore to try to finish the essays, though they are at times beautiful and quite well written overall. Not for me.

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