Rising from the Plains Book Review

  • Length: 6 pages
  • Sources: 6
  • Subject: Geography
  • Type: Book Review
  • Paper: #56336464

Excerpt from Book Review :

Rising From the Plains

John Mcphee, a writer of creative nonfiction books, started writing about the earth in 1985. He described the structure and movement of the earth's crust and mantle based on geology. He focused on the theory called plate tectonics which describes the earth's crust as several plates that bump with each other while gliding over the mantle. That theory was accepted only in the latter part of 1960's (decades after this idea was put forward for consideration), based upon geologic beliefs (Quammen, 1998). Rising from the Plains is a good book in itself but can be seen as a sequel to his two earlier books namely In Suspect Terrainand Basin and Range. The book revolves around the Rocky Mountains' geology and an adjacent terrain in Wyoming, both of which are near Interstate 80. The life story of David Love, a Rocky Mountain geologist, and his household was beautifully narrated by Mcphee, side by side with the changes in the earth's surface in the area. He also carefully described how the family explored the area for their basic needs, the environmental repercussions of these explorations, and the natural changes that took place in the geological features of the area; recommended, especially for public libraries (Hannibal, n.d.). The book describes different geomorphological processes over the United States on the 40th parallel.

This book is about the study of the earth, but with a human touch. The establishment of new boundaries and the wealth of the Love family mirrors the unending cycle of different geological processes. Depending on the quality of the land, different areas would be fit for raising foraging animals or for mining minerals or for use as railroads. From it, we are able to discern the productive and difficult years on their ranch. During the bountiful years, the homestead, bunkhouse and pen were built, while mudslide, drought and extremely strong winds killed the plants and animals during the bad years. According to York (1987) Mcphee regards his characters with deep respect but he is always giving them something to think about -he wants to know the deeper the different geological processes and their effects on the inhabitants.

"We're about a thousand miles from the nearest plate boundary. We should not tie in the landscape here with events that have taken place along the coast. This doesn't neutralize or dispose of the theory of platetectonics, but applied here it's
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incongruous- it's kind of like a rabbit screwing a horse. There is no evidence of plates grinding against each other here"- an excerpt from David Love in (Mcphee, 1986).

Increasing Interest on Geo-tourism

People became curious in the 1980s in touring national parks and other interesting geographical sites. However, most of these areas are located in distant places, far from where most people live. The curious would have to leave the city and miss the city lights in order to enjoy the charm of these parks. According to Newsome (2005), Mcphee's work helped boosting geo-tourism in the area significantly. At seventeen, Mcphee started studying geology and had been somewhat intrigued and captivated by it since then. He used to have problems with the geological terms, but he liked geology because it is a descriptive science and he enjoyed every description of a place. There is a harmonious connection between him and geology due to his excellent flair to describe things and his control to go beyond it. He writes with passion like a person who has deep interest or enthusiasm on the subject, not from his usual point-of-view - of an unknowledgeable but as an eager-to-learn outsider; as substitute for an unknowledgeable but eager-to-learn reader. According to Quammen (1998), geologists, with their very technical approach to the subject and would call things names that would be incomprehensible first captivated Mcphee.

The Rise of the Great Plains

The first page of the book declares,

"This is about high-country geology and a Rocky Mountain regional geologist. I raise that semaphore here at the start so no one will feel misled by an opening passage in which a slim young woman who is not in any sense a geologist steps down from a train in Rawlins, Wyoming, in order to go north by stage coach into country that was still very much the Old West." (Mcphee, 1986, p. 1)

The Great Plains is not as flat as it seems, as there is more to it than apparently visible. The "so-called emptiness of the Plains" makes it hard for us to see nor think. Unless you pay close attention to subtle differences, have a strong cognizance about the multimillion year timeframe with which the earth is believed to have existed, and have a creative mind, you cannot appreciate a place like it. While Mcphee was going to Lincoln, Nebraska, he noted the difference between what looks like a stable gentle rising and falling slopes of the countryside of I-80 and how the Trans-Mississippi West was formed. The rocks beneath the earth contain the evidence of all geological processes that took place. The walls of this significant crack which can be compared…

Sources Used in Documents:


Hannibal, J. (n.d.). Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Retrieved from Library Journals LLC: https://www.buffalolib.org/vufind/Record/428564/Reviews

Long-Term Landscape Evolution of the Colorado Front Range and its Foreland. (2016). Retrieved from Colorado University Papers: http://cires1.colorado.edu/science/groups/tucker/documents/info_for_prospective_students_nov10.pdf

Maher, S. (2014). Deep Map Country. University of Nebraska Press.

McPhee, J. (1986). Rising from the Plains. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Cite This Book Review:

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