July 13, 2003

The Heft of a Continent

An excerpt from Andro Linklater's book Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy

With neither the map nor the view from an airplane can reveal is the tension between these artificial shapes and the environment. From the Coeau des Prairies, a long escarpment marking the edge of glaciated plains in South Dakota, there is a view of squared-off prairie --- fields, farms, windbreaks, section lines --- stretching to the northern and western horizons and all obeying the survey; the sheer expanse of it is as moving and terrifying as an army on parade. Yet even on the stillest day, another power makes itself felt. The dry grasses rustle with it, and insistent pressure of the air, no heavier than breathing, that comes from far off and passes with irresistible momentum from the North to the warm South. The very gentleness of it is sobering. Out there a breeze would shake you on your feet, a storm would knock you flat. It carries the heft of a continent.
Reviewed by Robert J. Wellborn in the current issue of RALPH: The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities.

Posted by Vanderleun at July 13, 2003 4:27 PM
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