This is different, even for me.
The rich American landscape, both natural and cultural, is being threatened and in some cases wiped away completely. PreservationEditor-at-Large James Conaway takes to the road in Vanishing America, exploring the places, people, and traditions that have helped to shape our national identity.
Part personal narrative and part travelogue, his journey offers a smart and informative account from across the country. From D.C’s National Cathedral to a deserted cabin in Big Sur, from dinosaur bones in New Mexico’s Bisti Badlands to the weatherworn facade of New Orleans, along the way Conaway meets cowboys, hippies, real estate developers, and many others whose stories weave into a national identity at once created, disappearing, destroyed, and continually redefined. Many of the best reflections of what the country once stood for lie around us abused, exploited, or ignored. How do we resolve the notion of preservation within a culture so dependent on growth and prosperity?
With wit and acute urgency, Conaway reminds us that every bit of property, historic landmark, and distinct community, is vulnerable. These essays serve as a lament for what’s being lost, a prompt for what we still have to preserve, and a celebration of our nation’s unique characteristics.
I know I bought this, although I’m not sure why…I think I was suckered in by the word vanishing, thinking that it might be more about small towns than remote regions. Some of the essays were interesting, particularly the ones on Big Sur (just up the coast from me) and the National Cathedral. Some I could’ve done without (I’m not into dinosaur bones, mostly because the science-y stuff both confuses and bores me).
I do think the book is in dire need of a conclusion. There are a collection of essays, but it just ends. Does Conaway have a purpose, or did he just want to sell a book and took the easy way out by collecting some articles? I think a conclusion about the future of these areas, or even preservation in the US, would have made for a much stronger book.