The Ganges flows through northern India and Bangladesh for more than 1,500 miles before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. It is sacred to Hindus who worship Ganga, the river goddess. But it has also long been a magnet for foreigners, some seeking to unravel its mysteries and others who have come in search of plunder. In On the Ganges, George Black, who chronicled the exploration of the American West and the creation of Yellowstone National Park in Empire of Shadows, takes readers on an extraordinary journey from the glaciers of the Himalayas to the sacred city of Varanasi to the “hundred mouths” of the Ganges Delta.
On the Ganges, parts of which originated from a New Yorker article published last year, introduces us to a vivid and often eccentric cast of characters who worship the river, pollute it, and flock to it from all over the world in search of enlightenment and adventure. Black encounters those who run the corrupt cremation business, workers who eke out a living in squalid factories, religious fanatics, and Brits who continue to live as if the Raj had never ended.
By the end of his journey, Black has given us a memorable picture of the great river, with all its riddles and contradictions, both sacred and profane, giving the last word to a man scavenging for the gifts left by pilgrims: "There are good days and there are bad days. It all depends. Everything is in the hands of our mother, Ma Ganga."
Empire of Shadows is the epic story of the conquest of Yellowstone, a landscape uninhabited, inaccessible and shrouded in myth in the aftermath of the Civil War. In a radical reinterpretation of the nineteenth century West, George Black casts Yellowstone's creation as the culmination of three interwoven strands of history - the passion for exploration, the violence of the Indian Wars and the "civilizing" of the frontier - and charts its course through the lives of those who sought to lay bare its mysteries: Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, a gifted but tormented cavalryman known as "the man who invented Wonderland"; the ambitious former vigilante leader Nathaniel Langford; scientist Ferdinand Hayden, who brought photographer William Henry Jackson and painter Thomas Moran to Yellowstone; and Gen. Phil Sheridan, Civil War hero and architect of the Indian Wars, who finally succeeded in having the new National Park placed under the protection of the US Cavalry. George Black1s Empire of Shadows is a groundbreaking historical account of the origins of America1s majestic national landmark.
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