“The land of the heart is the land of the West.”
Readers of Chronicles are familiar with Chilton Williamson, Jr.’s regular contributions under the title The Hundredth Meridian, a rubric launched in the 1990’s. The first two dozen or so of these columns were conceived as chapters in a serialized book. With minor revisions and the addition of a Foreword, this book has now appeared. Those who have already savored his work will be delighted; new readers will discover fine writing and important reflections of and on contemporary America.
The book belongs to the prose genre now often termed creative nonfiction—either personal narratives or short informal essays, or, as here sometimes, a blend of the two modes. The chapters, which follow Williamson’s original order of publication, display loose geographic, seasonal, and thematic axes, crossing over, reinforcing, and meshing with one another (“wheels within wheels,” the author calls them). The settings are generally in the intermountain West—that vast area from the Continental Divide through the Great Basin to the Sierra Nevada, and over a range of latitudes, in this case from Wyoming to the Mexican border. The author excels at conveying what it is like to experience at close...