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Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan…

Bad Land: An American Romance (1996)

by Jonathan Raban

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7521619,031 (3.93)42
Recently added bybobsheedy, markhlong, cns1000, private library, katiekrug, MWise, BCMC_Library, AER635, kmfiske
  1. 10
    Homesteading: A Montana Family Album by Percy Wollaston (davidcla)
    davidcla: One of the source narratives for Raban's Bad Land.
  2. 00
    Bad Dirt by Annie Proulx (John_Vaughan)
  3. 00
    Coast to Coast by Jan Morris (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Despite a time seperation these two works, both from English authors, reflect similar viewpoints.
  4. 00
    The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: A different part of the country, but a similar tale of immigrant farmers and enormous determination.
  5. 00
    Evelyn Cameron: Montana's Frontier Photographer by Kristi Hager (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: More on the frontier photographer.
  6. 00
    Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon (John_Vaughan)

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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Account of early settlers drawn to the Dakotas by unreasonable brochures and the hardships they faced. ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 18, 2017 |
Early 20th Century settlers were lured to the Montana area for free land for settlement.
Over the years, the harsh conditions were too much for the majority of them
The author has returned to the area with a comprehensive report from the people who remained to settle these remote areas. ( )
  pgabj | Dec 28, 2016 |
I really enjoyed parts of this book and thought that it dealt with some of the issues in South Africa really well but I felt that the sections on the character's adult life were over-analysed and a bit over the top. The childhood section was good but also a bit overly poetic and symbolic at times - I felt the characters were overly self aware which made it a bit unrealistic. I enjoyed it though.
  LindsayCal | Feb 15, 2016 |
This book has taught me more about the American past than all my studies taken together. Maybe several assumptions in the train of thought, but highly plausible and well-researched. As for the writing - I'm glad he hasn't decided to present his findings in scholarly prose, as Schama would. Makes it all the more readable and enjoyable without making it less scholarly!
  Kindlegohome | Jul 9, 2015 |
Like Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," I still can't really tell you what this book "is" or why I liked it so much. I suppose its most proper generic category would be "cultural geography," which is really a short-hand way of saying travelogue/memoir/biography/political history.

What makes it so different from other histories is that the main character is a PLACE rather than a PERSON. And in an era of character-driven literature, such a focus makes this book both odd and oddly compelling.

It doesn't hurt anything that Raban writes with that remarkable verve and clarity peculiar to the British, though he's lived a good while in the USA. And it probably didn't hurt anything either that I also grew up on another patch of homestead territory, the south-central plains of Nebraska, once identified on maps as part of the "Great American Desert." If I replaced the name "Wollaston" with "Broeker" or "Bose," I'd be well-nigh telling stories of my grandfather's neighbors.

However, I think Raban's narrative is so compelling because he has uncovered here something essential to the American character...a kind of stubbornness both admirable and pitiable, a deep-set dreaminess that lives on after any particular manifestation of itself has gone bust. And, in that sense, the book becomes a crucial piece of "American" literature, destined, I believe, to a place of honor in the hall of American letters.

( )
  Jared_Runck | Jun 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
(Entire Review)From Drought to Dissent in the Western Plains
In the present-day West he explores so engagingly in his new book, ''Bad Land: An American Romance,'' Jonathan Raban meets many people hostile to the Federal Government. These dissenters are not only extremists like the members of the Militia of Montana who refuse even to look at him as he eats breakfast in the Landmark Cafe, ''evidently the regimental mess,'' in Noxon, Mont.
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Breasting the regular swells of land, on a red dirt road as true as a line of longitude, the car was like a boat at sea.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679759069, Paperback)

Jonathan Raban ambles and picks his way across the Montana prairie, called "The Great American Desert" until Congress offered 320-acre tracts of barren land to immigrants with stardust in their eyes. Raban's prose makes love to the waves of land, red dirt roads, and skeletons of homesteads that couldn't survive the Dirty Thirties. As poignant as any romance novel, there's heartbreak in the failed dreams of the homesteaders, a pang of destiny in the arbitrary way railroad towns were thrown into existence, and inspiration in the heroism of people who've fashioned lives for themselves by cobbling together homes from the ruined houses of those who couldn't make it. Through it all, Raban's voice examines and honors the vast open expanses of land and pays homage to the histories of families who eked out an existence.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:49 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Raban describes the austere, harsh world of early settlers on the dry Plains land of Montana and the Dakotas, and of the living settlers either barely scraped out, boomed with in good times, or withered away as quietly as they did.

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