Everett Ruess was twenty years old when he vanished into the canyonlands of southern Utah, spawning the myth of a romantic desert wanderer that survives to this day. It was 1934, and Ruess was in the fifth year of a quest to record wilderness beauty in works of art whose value was recognized by such contemporary artists as Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston. From his home in Los Angeles, Ruess walked, hitchhiked, and rode burros up the California coast, along the crest of the Sierra Nevada, and into the deserts of the Southwest. In the first probing biography of Everett Ruess, acclaimed environmental historian Philip L. Fradkin goes beyond the myth to reveal the realities of Ruess’s short life and mysterious death and finds in the artist’s astonishing afterlife a lonely hero who persevered.
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This is the definitive account of a western American legend, told with the author’s trademark clarity and narrative vigor. Fradkin helps us understand, through his careful reconstruction of a single man’s life, that deeply American search for the heart of the wilderness.” Donald Worster, author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
Everett Ruess’s short life meanders through three important territories: the west-coast artistic circles of Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange in the depression era; the wildernesses of the southwest, where he vanished; and the American imagination of freedom, mystery and loneliness ever since. Fradkin brings to that life intensive research, new data and insight that give us Ruess for the first time, and tells it with empathy for both the restless son and the bereaved mother and with great attunement to the communities Ruess’s story passes through.” Rebecca Solnit, author of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas
In all cultures, every religion, men and women have gone into isolation and returned with insight. Or, often equally fascinating, they have not returned. Are they lost souls hiding somewhere, or victims of misadventure? They lead many to speculate about the significance of life, and the significance of mystery. This book about Everett Ruess is an adventure story that builds into a mystery. So read and ponder. It kept me up nights.” William Kittredge, author of The Willow Field
I found I was turning the pages faster and faster and couldn’t put them down as the year of his disappearance approached. It is a compelling story, even to the debacle over the misidentification of bones at the end. A fascinating read.” William deBuys, author of A Great Aridness and The Walk
Everett Ruess was one of the West’s great conundrums and mysteries. The fact that Philip Fradkin is as indefatigable as a researcher as Ruess was as an outdoors traveler provides the foundation for a remarkable biography. Fradkin draws a portrait that leaves us face-to-face with the power and complexity of nature and human character.” Patricia N. Limerick, author Legacy of Conquest
Important or famous people can sometimes disappear into legend. Innumerable young people of aspiration and talent, however such as Everett Ruess can vanish into a vast and devouring darkness, lured there by dreams that can never come true and demons that give no rest.” Kevin Starr, University of Southern California
The mysterious disappearance of the vagabond artist and poet, Everett Ruess, has fascinated historians and Canyonlands buffs for nearly 80 years. Fradkin doesn’t solve the mystery of Everett’s fate, but he does a meticulous job demythologizing Ruess and making him human curious, quixotic, intense, often foolish but very much the embodiment of the youthful loner possessed by a romanticized search for truth and beauty.” Page Stegner, author of Adios Amigos: Tales of Sustenance and Purification in the American West
Philip L. Fradkin is the author of twelve highly praised books, including Wallace Stegner and the American West and The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself, and (with Alex L. Fradkin) The Left Coast: California on the Edge, all from UC Press.
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