Earlier I posted a couple of my tourist pictures of Idaho’s Shoshone Falls, the “Niagara of the West.” I’ve just begun to scan and print the negatives of the large-format work from the trip. Here are three from the falls:
Interestingly, in the pile of newspapers John had saved for me from while I was away, was a book review in the L.A. Times of Ginger Strand’s Inventing Niagara. Interestingly too, in browsing for the book on the web I noticed that it has two different subtitles: “Beauty, Power and Lies,” as well as the more provocative “How Industry, Commerce and Art Conspire to Sell (Out) a Natural Wonder.”
I’d lamented that the Niagara of the West had been despoiled and exploited to an unseemly theme-parkness, and in this long quote in the review Strand has similar things to say about the Niagara of the East:
Manicured, repaired, landscaped and artificailly lit, dangerous overhangs dynamited off and water flow managed to suit the tourist schedule, the Falls are more a monument to man’s meddling than to nature’s strength. In fact, they are a study in self-delusion: we visit them to encounter something real, then observe them through fake Indian tales, audio tours and IMAX films… We hold them up as an example of unconquerable nature even as we applaud the daredevil’s and power-brokers who conquer them. And we congratulate ourselves for preserving nature’s beauty in an ecosystem that, beneath its shimmering emerald surface, reflects our own ugly ability to destroy. On every level, Niagara Falls is a monument to the ways America falsifies its relationship to nature, reshaping its contours, redirecting its force, claiming to submit to its will while imposing our own on it.
Reviewer Tim Rutter, as much as he likes a lot of what Strand has to say, ends up finding the writing of the book to be tiring and frustrating. In that most post-modern technique now turning into cliche, the author’s process of writing the book plays a starring role in the book. When well done it can still be interesting, but in this example Rutter didn’t think that it was. Take that pronouncement under advisement, but it still sounds like the book is a worthwhile read.