"I like to think of the Meadowlands as an undesignated national park," writes Robert Sullivan in his end-of-the-millennium take on Thoreau
. In The Meadowlands
, Sullivan does his Thoreauvian bean-counting in one of America's most infamous dumping grounds, the huge tract of marshy land just outside New York City that has withstood any and all attempts to subdue it with agriculture, industry, development, and an ever-shifting deluge of flotsam and jetsam. He may just be the first person in a century to willingly explore this fascinating but abused piece of real estate, and his investigation gives new meaning to intrepid reporting. By foot he tramps through the muck, and by canoe he navigates polluted rivers and marshes, noting the variegated species of trash and industrial cast-offs with as much zeal as he observes the surprisingly rich diversity of wildlife. Revealed in these stories is a landscape bursting with nature amid the curious man-made detritus of urban consumption. With only a touch of irony, the author refers to his stomping ground as "Big Sky Country, east," imagining he's "in a National Geographic
special and visiting little tribes of people unknown to everyone else." He pursues the history of the Meadowlands with equal enthusiasm. Eccentric characters, tall tales, and scuttlebutt haunt the area, from the rumor that the land serves as the final resting place for Jimmy Hoffa (as well as a number of other Mafia hits) to the pitiable stories of the many dreamers who have sunk a fortune in the squelching mud. And throughout this smart, thoroughly researched adventure, Sullivan maintains a witty and lyrical voice that transforms his trip inside a nationally maligned place into a fun, informative romp.
"Provocative, audacious . . . by looking observantly, without trite moralizing, at the natural world . . . this book suggest a challenging new model for how we ought to pay attention." --Robert Pinsky, The New York Times Book Review
"It's full of add, compelling stories and is often hilarious. In short, it's a delight." --Men's Journal
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