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Bad Land Paperback – 6 Jun 1997
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'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. "
"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
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I may be unlucky starting with "Bad Land" as my first book by Raban, but I find Raban's idea of travel writting less than engaging... Read morePublished on 19 Aug. 2010 by Sasha
This book is a page turner from start to finish.
One of the best I have read in ages & the attention to detail is superb, I cannot complement the book enough bar it is a joy... Read more