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Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 26, 2013
History, from the perspective of individual ambitions and conflict have always been more interesting than anything undertaken with the academician's wider view to social impact and development. Stegner seems to know this going in and makes Powell's personality the locus of his narrative. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian is a highly literary depiction of Powell's concomitant American go-and-do-it-ness and its ironically corrosive effect on the optimism of the time. It's a truly beautiful story in its own right. As a moral tale it has few parallels, in my reading anyway, in quietly dismantling cultural myth and boosterism in favor of the objectivist's creed of seeking truth without agenda.
There is a cautionary tale here that rings true politically today, in as much as the story is a call to resist group think in any form, the extremes of alarmist predictions of doom on one hand, and, as well, the sometimes dismissive pursuit of human enterprise and exploitation on the other. In reading it, I wondered if the global warming crowd could meet the standard of Powell's commitment to truth any better than, say, a mindless real estate developer more interested in industrial nodes than in the land being subjected to his economic models. Stegner makes waypoints of the hyperbole of Powell's time in both directions.
Recommended reading for the intellectually independent. Learned and beautifully wrought.
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