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Bad Land Paperback – 6 Jun 1997

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (6 Jun. 1997)
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • ISBN-10: 0330346229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330346221
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 261,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

'Raban's journey, made through empty landscaped that once brimmed with optimism, reveals what happened when American innocence begins to curdle. The tale, borne along by its superlative writing, is a riveting one' Observer

From the Inside Flap

A New York Times Editors' Choice for Book of the Year
Winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award
Winner of the PEN West Creative Nonfiction Award

"No one has evoked with greater power the marriage of land and sky that gives this country both its beauty and its terror. "
--Washington Post Book World
In 1909 maps still identified eastern Montana as the Great American Desert. But in that year Congress, lobbied heavily by railroad companies, offered 320-acre tracts of land to anyone bold or foolish enough to stake a claim to them. Drawn by shamelessly inventive brochures, countless homesteaders--many of them immigrants--went west to make their fortunes. Most failed. In Bad Land, Jonathan Raban travels through the unforgiving country that was the scene of their dreams and undoing, and makes their story come miraculously alive.
In towns named Terry, Calypso, and Ismay (which changed its name to Joe, Montana, in an effort to attract football fans), and in the landscape in between, Raban unearths a vanished episode of American history, with its own ruins, its own heroes and heroines, its own hopeful myths and bitter memories. Startlingly observed, beautifully written, this book is a contemporary classic of the American West.
"Exceptional. . . . A beautifully told historical meditation. "
--Time
"Championship prose. . . . In fifty years don't be surprised if Bad Land is a landmark."
--Los Angeles Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Bad Land" is a captivating account of the great con perpetrated by the USA government and big business, working in cahoots, primarily against emigrants from Britain and Europe who were deceived by the prospect held out to them of a new life in eastern Montana as homesteaders farming free, fertile land. The reality was that the new railways running through the dry prairies of Eastern Montana depended on passengers and freight for survival and this required the land to be populated and worked. The stark truth was that the promised land was dry and dusty, with little rainfall - land you couldn't grow a toenail on, totally unsuitable for farming. Unbeknown to the emigrants, they would end up owning "all the dust, rock and parched grass you could see, and more." Thousands of attractive, glossy brochures were distributed far and wide across the USA and Europe promoting the golden dream of riches and prosperity as being there for the taking, just waiting to be snapped up. James J. Hill, the notorious railway magnate, lauded the homesteader scheme as "opening the vaults of a treasury and bidding each man help himself" People were so taken in by the prospect of riches in the new world dangled before them in glossy "golden" presentations and pictures that they were prepared to uproot their lives and their families and risk their lot on "a landscape in a book." They had no conception of what they were letting themselves in for.

Raban is at his best re-creating the great adventure west to eastern Montana, his imagery of that vast, forbidding terrain capturing the landscape in all its moods.
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Format: Paperback
The triumph that is this book deserves to be hollered across city tenements and wide open plains the world over. Raban has conjured a travelogue-cum-social history to rank alongside the classics of Paul Theroux - to whom this book is dedicated - as one of the very best of its genre. The fruits of his phenomenal research alone would have guaranteed a mesmerising read about one of the most remarkable yet forgotten periods of recent American history. But Raban's ability to take the accounts of disparate characters from past and present and mould them into one epic, illuminating and truly unputdownable account of humanity's battle to beat the odds in 'Big Sky Country', enables this book to blaze with a brightness which befits its subject. It makes one want to throw open the upstairs windows, suck in the fresh air and long to discover what lurks just over the horizon. It is what every travel book should aspire to be.
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By A Customer on 29 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the middle volume of Raban's loose trilogy of books about his journey across America, and benefits from being read after "Hunting Mr Heartbreak".
Again Jonathan Raban successfully blends historical anecdote with travel and autobiography. Not only does he bring to life an unknown (for me) period of American history, but he also brings out contemporary resonances. The personal stories of the early twentieth century settlers, and their misguided enthusiasm for Montana, are memorable and poignant. The settlers' hopes seem to parallel the aspirations of modern day economic migrants, and remind us of the illusory nature of those hopes for most people, then and now.
The stories told have stayed in my mind longer than most, and although about a little known period of American history, reflects powerfully on the current state of America.
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Format: Paperback
The emigrants travelling at the turn of the century across America, but by train and not wagon, was different to the usual stories. Apart from my love of the tales of the settlers, my particular interest (and 5-star rating) for "Bad Land" was because of Worsell. Am now investigating if he is or was a long lost cousin of my husband's family. I dont really know whether we wish him to be kin or not - but he must depict the type and lifestyle of many emigrants trying to escape from poor living in their homelands and possibly avoiding punishment of some kind. Worsell adds an interesting flavour to the book and despite all the negative things about him, he was a proud man.
The book is full of gems and a number of the families that were named must still have their descendants living on the same land, in this modern world, possibly not such a harsh living as before, but all credit their stability and the hard labour which was obvious of their ancestors.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book has been an eye-opener for me on a part of America of which I knew almost nothing and it has made me want to investigate more about the early settler communities in America. What particularly strikes me is how the combination of weather, soil, water and space made such a difficult living for the early farmers and I am amazed by their fortitude in perservering.

What the settlers didn't realise, sadly, is how they were exploited by the Government and their advertising people.

Jonathan Raban made me laugh a lot too, he has such a dry sense of humour.

The book is just the right length, 321 pages, and I was sorry it came to an end.
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