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There Was a River
By Bruce Berger
198 pp. / 5.50 in x 8.50 in / 1994
Paper (978-0-8165-1493-9)
Related Interest
  - Literature and Essays

On October 7, 1962, Bruce Berger and three friends embarked on what may have been the last trip taken through the Colorado River's Glen Canyon before the floodgates were closed at Glen Canyon Dam and
There Was a River explores the idiosyncrasies of the desert Southwest, and Berger has a keen eye for the oddities of human behavior interacting with this extraordinary environment. Through the book parade a number of characters whom we alternately admire, disdain, want to avoid at all costs, or can't wait to meet.

—Colorado Plateau Advocate

His skilled language and extraordinary descriptions of this land of 'pink geology' will captivate readers, even those who have never traveled west of the Mississippi.

—Publishers Weekly

This book is not your run-of-the-mill psycho-spiritual babble of self-discovery in the desert. This is a book written by a real desert rat, for real desert rats. . . . Those who understand, or have an inkling they understand, will appreciate the soft intelligence and humor of this fine writer.

—Desert Skies

Berger is a talented writer who wrestles with the compromises we all make as desert city-dwellers.

—Journal of Arizona History

Lake Powell began to fill. After thirty years, one can grieve for what was lost and then, like Berger, take another look around.

The Southwest Berger sees is an unusual, even odd, place, with inhabitants that are just as strange. In this collection of essays he introduces us to people and places that define a region and a way of life. We meet eccentric desert dwellers like Cactus Pete, who claimed to have mapped the mountains of Venus long before NASA penetrated its clouds. We chart the canals of Phoenix, which have created a Martian landscape out of an irrigation system dating back to the ancient Hohokam; stay at a "wigwam" motel in Holbrook, whose kitsch appeals even to Hopis; and dim our lights for the International Dark-Sky Association's efforts to keep night skies safe for astronomy.

Focusing on the interaction of people with the environment, Berger reveals an original vision of the Southwest that encompasses both city and wilderness. In a concluding essay centering on the sale of his mother's estate in Phoenix, he concedes that "our intention to leave the desert alone has resulted, unwittingly, in loss after loss, simply by our being here." Sometimes there are losses—a canyon, a house—but Berger attunes us to the prodigies of change.

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