THE ABSENT HAND Reimagining Our American Landscape By Suzannah Lessard
Not long ago, I called the National Park Service in Richmond, Va., wanting advice about visiting Civil War sites with the family. “What kind of site do you want to visit?” asked the cheerful park ranger.
I rambled on about our having once wandered the battlefield at Fredericksburg, in the flush of a sunny summer morning, feeling that its pretty fields, hills and gullies had told the story of the carnage that transpired there quite movingly. “Uh-huh,” the ranger replied. Clearly, I hadn’t answered his question.
“Are you looking for a certain historical perspective?” he said.
The penny dropped. Richmond has battlefields where the South prevailed and battlefields where the North did. Were we looking for one or the other? I pretended not to understand, turning the conversation toward where to go for the best walk in the countryside, and sensed the ranger’s relief.
This seems to be where we are now, barricaded in different fortresses of selective memory. Civil War sites lend themselves especially well to such tribal instincts. But our shifting national identity is inscribed everywhere from sea to shining sea. Every place carries meanings that accumulate like sediments over time.
“Is not landscape itself — whether purposely preserved or merely lasting beyond its time — also, ultimately, most precious to us not as an elegiac reminder of the past but as a mirror of ourselves, then and now, in all our complicated humanity?” Suzannah Lessard asks in “The Absent Hand.”
Half memoir, half cri de coeur, Lessard’s lambent, thoughtful, exquisitely written collection of interconnected essays dissects — as an art historian would a picture, a literary critic a text, a medical examiner a cadaver — a diverse swath of America, from Gettysburg and the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania to Truth or Consequences, N.M.; from the seat of an airplane, 30,000-odd feet above Alaska, to the stoops and sidewalks of Brooklyn during the 1990s; from Georgetown, in Washington, where the author used to live, to Youngstown, Ohio, where “no matter how hard I tried,” Lessard says, “I could not identify with this misfortune, this extreme vulnerability of an entire urban society.”
A longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, author of “The Architect of Desire,” one of the first editors of The Washington Monthly and self-described suburbophobe, Lessard devotes much of the book to exploring what she terms America’s “atopia,” our vast, seemingly unplanned, inchoate, exurban sprawl, which remains to her largely inscrutable and tragic. She writes about such places from what you might call an exalted literary remove. The mode is epistolary, poetic, occasionally honest to a fault (the Youngstown remark, for example) and moral.
“Because we have so far failed as effective stewards, yet are as dependent as ever, nature also represents our ungovernedness: our inability in this very basic matter of self-preservation to take care of ourselves,” she writes. At the same time, Lessard notes how “the healthier the ecology of a region, the more people and businesses it attracts,” which “in turn, puts ever more pressure on the environment, escalating the challenge of protecting it” and at the same time exacerbating class conflicts, a problem to which she admits contributing as a second-home owner in New York’s Hudson Valley.
These class conflicts, indicative of “the national blue-red divide,” can “make local politics almost violent,” she writes. “The farmer who hopes to make some money off his land by developing it, working-class families who have seen employment shrink to nearly nothing but have been offered a meaningful sum by a fracking company — such people see landscape preservationists, like environmentalists, as the enemy.”
I brought up those Civil War sites earlier because Lessard writes a fine chapter about them. Citing the historian Michael Lacey, she traces the roots of America’s unplanned atopia back to Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and slavery. A federal government that successfully established a national planning policy would weaken the case for state sovereignty. So slave states consistently opposed centralized planning. “The undying worm of conscience twinges with terror for the fate of the peculiar institution” is how Adams put it.
And as Lessard points out, landscape preservation in the United States then emerged during the 1890s as a movement to save Civil War battlefields, although, so as not to upset Confederate sympathizers, for years the Park Service avoided discussions of slavery in its ranger talks, on-site plaques and other curatorial materials.
Blood-drenched graveyards of industrialized killing morphed into cherished emblems of American nobility and pastoral innocence through what was in effect a policy of willful amnesia, a kind of second act of repression. Like a blanket of fresh snow, this new identity whitewashed the old.
Fortunately, writers like Lessard demonstrate that the truth awaits excavation. “Dragging out the truth of landscape is exciting but exhausting,” she writes. “I do it, I think, out of faithfulness to place — and faith in place.
“If we ask it will tell.”B:
【那】【日】【之】【后】 【泰】【武】【只】【是】【给】【王】【虚】【门】【的】【一】【些】【长】【老】【交】【代】【了】【一】【下】【之】【后】，【就】【开】【始】【闭】【关】。 【至】【于】【为】【啥】【闭】【关】【不】【知】【道】，【但】【也】【有】【人】【传】【说】【是】【因】【为】【泰】【武】【去】【了】【趟】【大】【夏】【王】【国】【国】【都】，【似】【乎】【是】【给】【了】【某】【个】【大】【人】【物】【什】【么】【东】【西】，【要】【他】【帮】【忙】【解】【决】【一】【下】【付】【永】【亮】【以】【及】【现】【任】【王】【虚】【门】【炼】【丹】【师】【的】【事】【情】。 【期】【初】，【这】【些】【话】【也】【都】【是】【一】【些】【王】【虚】【门】【门】【下】【弟】【子】【之】【流】【传】，【最】【后】【慢】【慢】【的】【蔓】【延】
【随】【着】【时】【间】【的】【流】【逝】，【国】【会】【广】【场】【上】【的】【人】【群】【也】【开】【始】【逐】【渐】【聚】【集】【起】【来】。 【此】【刻】【的】【露】【易】【丝】【因】【为】【从】【斯】【万】【维】【克】【部】【长】【那】【里】【得】【到】【消】【息】【后】，【无】【法】【说】【明】【名】【字】，【只】【能】【谎】【称】【是】【从】【一】【个】【匿】【名】【线】【人】【的】【情】【报】【中】【得】【到】【了】【关】【于】【那】【次】【沙】【漠】【中】【屠】【杀】【事】【件】【的】【真】【像】【而】【与】【自】【己】【的】【老】【板】【扯】【着】【皮】。 【而】【另】【一】【边】【的】【布】【鲁】【斯】【却】【是】【从】【报】【道】【里】【听】【着】【国】【会】【中】【的】【那】【个】【断】【腿】【的】【男】【人】【的】【发】【言】【异】【常】【的】
“【中】【级】【巫】【师】【很】【少】？” 【苏】【暮】【笑】【了】【笑】，【对】【此】【不】【置】【可】【否】。 【中】【级】【巫】【师】【的】【标】【准】【是】【可】【以】【自】【己】【缩】【减】【咒】【语】【的】【音】【节】，【并】【省】【略】【挥】【舞】【魔】【杖】【的】【动】【作】，【从】【电】【影】【和】【小】【说】【中】【的】【剧】【情】【来】【看】【应】【该】【是】【魔】【法】【部】【傲】【罗】【或】【者】【魔】【法】【学】【校】【普】【通】【老】【师】【的】【水】【平】。 【这】【个】【世】【界】【基】【本】【上】【每】【个】【历】【史】【悠】【久】【的】【国】【家】【都】【有】【各】【自】【的】【魔】【法】【部】，【魔】【法】【学】【校】【也】【不】【少】，【再】【加】【上】【那】【些】【见】【不】【得】【光】【的】【黑】
“【是】【我】，【是】【我】【一】【直】【都】【是】【看】【不】【惯】【你】【父】【亲】【的】【所】【走】【作】【为】。【我】【知】【道】，【如】【果】【不】【是】【因】【为】【这】【样】【的】【话】，【你】【也】【是】【不】【会】【来】【找】【我】【们】【来】【合】【作】【的】【不】【是】【吗】？ 【如】【果】【不】【是】【你】【的】【父】【亲】【太】【过】【分】【的】【话】，【你】【自】【己】【也】【是】【不】【会】【这】【样】【做】【的】。” “【其】【实】，【这】【样】【也】【是】【好】【的】【不】【是】【吗】？【最】【起】【码】。【我】【跟】【你】【说】，【这】【个】【事】【情】，【如】【果】【是】【我】【们】【能】【够】【好】【好】【地】【合】【作】【的】【话】，【一】【定】【是】【可】【以】【阻】【止】【你】【的】八仙过海二码组合【第】【二】【天】，【天】【光】【大】【亮】。 【夏】【小】【天】【揉】【了】【揉】【有】【些】【发】【酸】【的】【胳】【膊】，【一】【时】【不】【知】【道】【自】【己】【身】【在】【何】【处】。 “【醒】【了】？” 【那】【年】【的】【声】【音】【传】【来】，【她】【咕】【哝】【一】【声】：“【那】【年】，【我】【们】【在】【哪】？” 【这】【明】【显】【不】【是】【那】【年】【家】。 “【酒】【店】。” 【客】【房】【服】【务】【的】【铃】【声】【似】【乎】【要】【证】【明】【那】【年】【的】【话】，【适】【时】【响】【起】，【他】【起】【身】【去】【开】【门】，【夏】【小】【天】【彻】【底】【清】【醒】： “【别】【开】！” 【她】
【齐】【王】【宫】【那】【片】【片】【桃】【林】【如】【今】【已】【是】【桃】【花】【朵】【朵】，【竞】【相】【开】【放】。 【花】【易】【凋】【零】，【容】【颜】【易】【老】。 【这】【里】【经】【历】【了】【一】【代】【又】【一】【代】【的】【君】【王】。 【如】【今】，【他】【们】【的】【时】【代】【也】【终】【于】【落】【幕】【了】。 【阳】【生】【与】【妘】【曦】【十】【指】【相】【扣】，【站】【在】【这】【桃】【林】【前】，【心】【中】【只】【有】【对】【方】。 【这】【一】【切】【的】【一】【切】【都】【不】【重】【要】【了】，【重】【要】【的】【是】！【彼】【此】。 【一】【个】【穿】【着】【黑】【色】【衣】【袍】【的】【少】【年】，【带】【着】【紫】【玉】【珠】【帘】【迎】【风】
【虞】【启】【这】【时】【抬】【眼】【瞟】【了】【她】【一】【眼】：“【我】【觉】【得】【你】【那】【时】【过】【得】【挺】【高】【兴】【的】。” 【令】【仪】【有】【些】【不】【服】【气】【地】【瞪】【向】【虞】【启】：“【子】【非】【我】，【焉】【知】【我】【乐】【否】？” 【原】【话】【是】“【子】【非】【鱼】，【焉】【知】【鱼】【之】【乐】”，【但】【这】【一】【句】【不】【应】【景】，【她】【便】【改】【了】。 【虞】【启】【默】【默】【地】【瞅】【了】【她】【一】【眼】，【修】【长】【的】【指】【擒】【起】【琉】【璃】【茶】【几】【上】【的】【小】【罗】【汉】【杯】【抿】【了】【口】【清】【茶】，【只】【不】【搭】【理】【她】。