Coffee table books are common as snowflakes in December, but every once in a while one comes along that is photographically ahead of the rest.
Such is the case with "Endless Nevada, a Photo Essay" by photographer Larry Prosor and Nevada magazine publisher and Nevada Appeal travel writer Richard Moreno.
From the brilliant book jacket of embossed gold of a man fishing in the Truckee River to the picture of a lonely wagon road in the Jarbidge Wilderness, this is a treat to the eye.
There's plenty to read as well as vistas to enjoy. John. L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist, offers a foreword. The late Robert Laxalt adds an introduction, ending on a magnificent panorama by Prosor of "Moonset Over Independence Ridge."
Each chapter is headed by a slightly washed-out photo across two pages, with a small photo insert. The first chapter is titled "Overview." In it, Moreno offers a fast-moving history of Nevada, from geological formation millions of years ago to 1931, when the Legislature approved gambling and the six-week divorce residency.
The next chapter, "The Land," is a stunning collection of Prosor photographs, such as an open trail in Thomas Canyon, Elko County, and a surreal vision of geysers in the Black Rock Desert. Subsequent chapters include "Searching for Wraiths," "The Past," "Mealtime," "The People," "Gathering Places," "The Places," "A Cowboy Needs a Poem," "The Cowboys," "America's Outback," "The Cities" and "End of the Road."
Moreno writes of the Basque immigrants and the opening of their hotels and boarding houses, catering to the Basque sheepherders who descended from the hills for a good meal and soft bed.
In "Gathering Places," Moreno writes:
"Saloons have long been rural Nevada's social clubs, political meeting halls and psychiatry couches. Intimate secrets, heated words, unkeepable promises and tall tales have all be passed at least a time or two over a beer. In most small Nevada towns, the local watering holes are the places where nearly everyone meets, at least sometime during the week, to swap gossip, make deals, or just socialize. If a small town is perceived as something organic, then the saloon is its soul. It is where opinions are formed, decisions are made and, occasionally, consensus occurs."
In the introduction to "The Places," an especially striking photo shows two tiny people atop a gigantic tower of rock in the Ruby Mountains. You know no helicopter brought them to that peak.
In "A Cowboy Needs a Poem," Moreno writes:
"Cowboys are part of what defines Nevada and the West. Despite having been overly romanticized in movies, books, songs and television shows, there is really something appealing about a cowboy. Perhaps it is the perceived freedom of living out under the stars, or the way the cowboy myth neatly parallels traditional American beliefs in self-determination and hard work. For whatever reasons, cowboys fascinate us."
This is only a brief description of the wealth of beauty in photographs and graceful prose that make up this book. At $34.95, it's definitely one for the coffee table.