Dripping Dry

Literature, Politics and Water in the Desert Southwest
David N. Cassuto
Explores the convergences of U.S. water policy and the literature of the American West


More than any other single characteristic, aridity defines the American West. Water scarcity and its biologically critical function have also molded the regional literature of the region. Using novels by Barbara Kingsolver, Edward Abbey, John Steinbeck and Mary Austin, Dripping Dry combines literary analysis with environmental criticism to demonstrate how the myths that have pervaded the regional literature of the West have interacted with the myths that have shaped water policy throughout the twentieth century.

The four works selected (Animal Dreams, The Monkey Wrench Gang, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Ford) present a composite portrait of reclamation, which the author argues is one of the most important cultural and ecological phenomena in the nation's history. The tensions and contradictions presented by the novels underscore the compelling need for an ecocritique of the relationship between literature and politics. David N. Cassuto deciphers the myths of reclamation and restoration and presents a third alternative—sustainability—in their stead. The challenge is a large one, because of the size and complexity of the region and because nature continues to evolve and create itself, a process involving language, ideology, and the land.

The book is designed to be an interdisciplinary contribution both to the emerging field of literature and the environment, as well as to environmental studies. It will be welcomed by scholars as well as general readers interested in new approaches to literature and environmental issues, and by those interested in the geography and literature of the western United States.

David N. Cassuto, formerly of the English Department of the University of Missouri-Rolla, is a practicing attorney in San Francisco, specializing in environmental issues.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book on water is probably the most important volume this reviewer of many years has read. . . . All CEOs, national politicians, environmentalists, mayors, and governors should digest this book, as should every student and scholar at every academic level."
    —J. N. Igo Jr., emeritus, San Antonio College, Choice, May 2002
  • "A must-read for anyone with an interest in the hydrology of the arid west."
    —Elizabeth Rush, East Bay Express, November 2001
  • "Throughout the book Cassuto, who now practices environmental law, gives a clear overview of a century of water politics, contributing to western American literature by showing the ways in which dominant cultural myths not only influence novelists, but also creators of water policy."
    —Joan E. Thompson, Golden Valley, Minnesota, Wesern American Literature, Fall 2003

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 224pp.
  • 1 drawing, 9 B&W photograph section.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06756-5

Add to Cart
  • $27.95 U.S.