77,000 tons of apocalyptic yumminess

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The mountain that John D’Agata is ostensibly concerned with in his slim but powerful new book, “About a Mountain,” is Yucca Mountain, located approximately 100 miles north of Las Vegas. And he’s not the only one interested in it: since the mid-1980s, the United States government has been doing back flips to bury the country’s entire reservoir of spent nuclear waste — some 77,000 tons of apocalyptic yumminess — deep inside Yucca. In the summer of 2002, the summer after D’Agata helped his mother move to a Vegas suburb, Congress was proceeding with plans to make the mountain a nuclear dump. Also that summer, 16-year-old Levi Presley jumped to his death from the observation deck of a third-rate Vegas hotel. These subjects, disparate though they are, animate D’Agata’s sprawling narrative. The author of a well-regarded book of essays and the editor of two exceptional essay anthologies, D’Agata has an encyclopedic understanding of the form’s intricate artistry. Moreover, he is a serious thinker who regularly lays down stylish, intelligent sentences: “I do not think that Yucca Mountain is a solution or a problem. I think that what I believe is that the mountain is where we are, it’s what we now have come to — a place that we have studied more thoroughly at this point than any other parcel of land in the world — and yet still it remains unknown, revealing only the fragility of our capacity to know.”

more from Charles Bock at the NYT here.

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