Thursday, October 28, 2010

About a Mountain

by John D'Agata

What a strange and wonderful book!

Part memoir, part investigative journalism, full of information and reason and compassion, and that je ne sais quoi of pleasurable reading regardless of the subject. The author, a longtime magazine writer, moves his mother to Las Vegas and winds up lingering there himself, on the fringe of that misbegotten, faux-paradise house of cards in the middle of the desert where no such thing belongs. Mulling over the queer paradox that is his new home, he begins to investigate the long simmering and controversial plan to secrete the nation's spent nuclear reactor fuel in Yucca Mountain, a disturbingly unsuitable scheme for myriad reasons. He also volunteers for a suicide hot line in the American city with the highest rate of such deaths, and he tracks down the story of a young person (not the first) who leapt to oblivion from the observation deck of the Stratosphere hotel, itself a monstrosity in a city of never ending freak shows.

Surely one of the best books I've read this year.

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