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Greetings from the Salton Sea.
Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005.

Text by Kim Stringfellow.
Center for American Places, Chicago, 2005. 144 pp., 45 color illustrations, 12 half-tones, 5½x8½".

Kim Stringfellow's book charts a ten year obsession with the peculiar Salton Sea in the deep desert of southern California. This is an odyssey about an oddity, the condensed story of the peculiarities that people and landscape can inspire in each other when topography and money collide. The Salton Sea is a western palimpsest: by turns it has been a saline desert flatland; an irrigated money machine; a disastrously accidental inland sea below sea level; the site of wild real estate speculation; a classified military outpost; a glittering destination resort; an environmental debacle; a designated catch basin for agricultural runoff; and crucial wildlife habitat. The area's story is as instructive as it is deeply American, and Stringfellow tells it well, deploying conventional historical text and retrieved artifacts, as well as well-realized color photography of the area as it stands today. The book, which is drawn from an original installation, is laid out rather like a handbook to the sights, sounds and smells of the Salton Sea over time, chronicling the series of disjointed visions and somewhat haphazard events that produced the strange, ruinous present- day Sea. Stringfellow is to be commended for going beyond a standard denunciation of human hubris in the western landscape, though. She also directs our attention to the communities that have sprung up in the cracks of the desert floor: significant populations of migratory and resident birds (many of whom are threatened by the growing salinity of the Sea), and a vibrant human squatter community, that makes its way by scrounging and recycling the remnants of past incarnations of settlement. Her purpose is to highlight the irrevocable bond between human and natural ecologies, and the responsibilities we unwittingly take on when we try to bend reality to match our dreams. PHIL HARRIS Read Publisher's Description.

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