Jon's Reviews > The Anthropology of Turquoise: Meditations on Landscape, Art, and Spirit

The Anthropology of Turquoise by Ellen Meloy
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Jan 01, 08

Recommended for: lovers of nature writing, environmental ethicists, humorists
Read in January, 2007

Ellen was a close friend of my family's for many years--in fact, my father had lunch with her only a few weeks before her sudden passing in 2004 at the age of 58. Needless to say, her death hit us rather hard--hard enough that, though she gave me The Anthropology of Turquoise on my birthday in 2003, it took me until mid-2007 to begin reading it. Journeying through these pages was thus a very intimate experience for me: full of sadness at the memory of a lost friend; laughter at the ridiculousness of Ellen's quirky passages; joy at the opportunity to hear her voice once again; and wonder at the beauty of her writing.

If you've never read any of Ellen's work before, you're in for a real treat. She writes about the southwest U.S. with passion and ferocity--a welcome change from many such environmental works which are as dry as the deserts they describe. It's odd to think that a series of essays that work to subtly build an environmental ethic could be enjoyable, but in fact I quite often found myself laughing out loud. How could you not enjoy a book with essay titles such as "A Field Guide to Brazen Harlotry," and chapter-opening sentences like, "I have just stapled my hair to the roof"?

Ellen's work is not just about humor, however; there are also long passages decrying the destruction of the natural world, an entire essay on the horridness of Los Angeles, and beautiful lover's notes to the red sands that shift through open doors at dusk. I can't say that Anthropology is the best environmental work I've ever read, but it's certainly one of the best-written.

If you've ever tried to get through A Sand County Almanac or Walden and found the style and writing too austere, pick up one of Ellen's books. She's just as deep, in her own way, but far more readable.
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