As a boy, Robert D. Kaplan listened to his truck-driver father's evocative stories about traveling across America as a young man, travels in which he learned to understand the country from a ground-level perspective. In Earning the Rockies, Kaplan undertakes his own cross-country journey to recapture an appreciation and understanding of American geography that is often lost in the jet age. The history of westward expansion is examined here in a new light—not just a story of genocide and individualism, but also of communalism and a respect for the limits of a water-starved terrain—to understand how settling the West shaped our national character, and how it should shape our foreign policy. In his clear-eyed and moving meditations on the American landscape, Kaplan lays bare the roots of American greatness—the fact that we are a nation, empire, and continent all at once—and how we must reexamine those roots, and understand our geography, in order to confront the challenging, anarchic world that Kaplan describes. Earning the Rockies is a short epic, a story both personal and global in scope.~Goodreads Blurb
Reading this was like reading a thank you to his father’s shared wanderlust, and to the expansion of his mind by Bernard DeVoto.In writing this Robert D. Kaplan has managed to shine a light on the circular nature of history during a time when we might need it most. I was worried that this was going to be the sort of book that bemoans the lack of the good ol’ days, and a wishlist of the way things used to be. I was pleasantly surprised in the manner of which it showed inclusiveness and really highlighted more than simply the white folks conquering the West. There also is a deep understanding and a spark of joy in knowing that instead of simply tearing down our past to build up from the bones, more and more of America is investing in preserving our past. Whether good or bad, it is a part of us and it will shape our future in ways we might not be able to spot. The push towards isolationism and solidarity seems to be taking place in our country not from a position of strength but from a place of fear. Kaplan notes this and tries to explain the large political swing America’s political system is going through, by showing our past and how it affected us at the time.
One of the great joys about reading someone’s travel memoirs, especially if you have taken the same route, is seeing things through their eyes. Having driven from New Jersey to Montana myself not even two years ago, I find myself remembering the trip through Kaplan’s stories and descriptions. It adds another layer to the memories I already had, as I begin to understand not only the difference of locations and peoples but also the historical importance of the cities I drove through stopping only to fill a gas tank. Kaplan creates a connection to the readers, that pulls them in and shows them a land that has become simply a fly over zone for most of the country.
I would say that this book is for people who are interested in the politics of land, and have an interest in the shaping of America as a whole. Also anyone who enjoys travel memoirs will get a kick out of “Earning The Rockies.” Though I had no real knowledge of Bernard DeVoto’s work, I’ve planned to go back and read more into his backlog of works
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Random House in exchange for honest feedback*
Robert David Kaplan is an American journalist, currently a National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. His writings have also been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers and publications, and his more controversial essays about the nature of U.S. power have spurred debate in academia, the media, and the highest levels of government. A frequent theme in his work is the reemergence of cultural and historical tensions temporarily suspended during the Cold War.
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