in available two-parent families to take inrnthese “orphans”—mostly the childrenrnof so-called welfare mothers—the likelyrnresult will instead be a new class ofrnsemipermanent government wards.rnAnother golden-age myth assumesrnthe presence of a father quietly preparedrnfor all crises and on hand at every formativernmoment of his children’s lives. Gillisrncounters that until quite recently fathersrn—and mothers—worked such longrnhours that they saw their children onlyrnon Sundays, their one day off. Now thatrnworking hours are again increasing,rnparents—those at least who have jobs—rnare likely to be absent as well from theirrnchildren’s lives. Compulsory education,rnGillis notes, was initially intended tornremedy this situation, replacing thernubiquitous parents of family workshoprnand farm with the authority of the staternin loco parentis. Parents were left to carvernout “quality time” for their families (asrnmuch a concern in Victorian times asrnnow) from the tattered remnants of thernweek. The absence from home of parentsrnand children also led to a decidedlyrnungolden regimentation. Gillis observes:rn”It was in the 1850’s and 1860’s, exactlyrnwhen work and school time were first imposingrntheir relentless regime on middleclassrnfamilies, that families began to organizernthe day into an endless cycle ofrnmeals and bedtimes that has changed remarkablyrnlittle ever since.”rnThe golden age may never have existedrnbut it exerts a powerful influence onrnus, leading to such strange phenomenarnas “holiday trauma,” our latest widescalernsocial disease: the product of a demandrnfor choreographed performancesrnin which family members play an assignedrnpart in manufacturing togetherness,rnand in which children remain childrenrnno matter how old they may be.rnAmong its other manifestations are thernself-styled “family restaurants” that nowrnseem to occupy every street corner, advertisingrntheir soups and microwaveheatedrndinners as homemade, and—rnoddest of all—Las Vegas casinos billingrnthemselves as “family destinations.”rnTimes are changing, though: in thernlast quarter century the number ofrnAmerican households made up of onernperson has increased from 13 to 26 percentrnof the total, while the percentage ofrnchildren living with a single parent hasrnincreased from 12 to 27 percent. Yet thernfamily endures; “flexing,” Gillis observes,rn”rather than breaking,” through mechanismsrnlike the shared custody of children.rnThis of course is far from the televisedrnideal: even the Simpsons live under onernroof. But, Gillis suggests, to seek to retrieverna golden past that restores (to borrowrnfrom Hollywood) a condition inrnwhich men are the producers and womenrnthe directors of real-life family dramarnis misguided at best. It could even costrnsomeone an election.rnGregory McNamee’s most recent book isrnThe Sierra Club Desert Reader.rnFragments of Tilernby Norma WilliamsonrnThe Sierra Club Desert Reader:rnA Literary CompanionrnEdited by Gregory McNameernSan Francisco: Sierra Club Books;rn306 pp., $16.00rnBy definition, an anthology is a collectionrnof stories, poems, excerpts fromrnliterary works, etc., that are published togetherrnbecause they represent a particularrntime period, literary style, or theme.rnWhat to include and what to leave out isrnalways a problem; however, The SierrarnGlub Desert Reader: A Literary Companion,rnedited by Gregory McNamee, mustrnhave presented unusual difficulties.rnDesert Reader comprises excerpts fromrnfiction, poetry, travel writing, journals,rnfolk tales, songs, and other literaturernabout the great deserts of our world, includingrnselections by distinguished authors,rnhistorical figures, philosophers,rnhistorians, explorers, and travelers coveringrna 2,000-year span. Earth’s dry landsrnwith their wild nature, vast expanses ofrnempty space, and harsh climatic extremesrnhave influenced human art, culture,rnand religion since the beginning ofrnrecorded history. In an introduction tornDesert Reader, McNamee explains thernproblem as well as his criterion: “Therndeserts of the world have spawned a significantrnbody of literature, a corpus wellrnout of proportion to the number of peoplernwho actually dwell in them. . . . Inrnthis anthology, I have attempted to gatherrnsome of the best of that body of writing,rnobserving the American poet EzrarnPound’s dictum that literature ‘is newsrnthat stays news.’ I do not, of course, pretendrnto completeness; that is the naturernof an anthology, a selection of texts thatrnreflects the editor’s tastes and prejudices.”rnAlthough arid lands account for aboutrn20 percent of Earth’s surface, scientistsrnand other experts apparently cannotrnagree on what ought to be consideredrntrue desert. In his introduction, McNameerntalks about the variety of landscapesrnsubsumed by the word “desert”:rn”The very word conjures up mystery,rnevokes the windswept fastness of BeaurnGeste and Lawrence of Arabia. Thatrnmystery may be a sign of its imprecision,rnfor the term embraces an improbablernvast range of landscapes from the comparativelyrnlush columnar cactus forests ofrnArizona and Sonora to the Antarctic,rnwhere 90 percent of the planet’s freshrnwater lies locked in ice.” For DesertrnReader, McNamee has accepted thernbroadest possible definition and includedrnliterary works from regions—even thernAntarctic—where rainfall is very scant orrnirregular, vegetation is sparse, and therernare prevailing winds that dry up, or drivernaway, normal rainfall. However, thernAntarctic continent, although it receivesrnthe least precipitation of any region onrnEarth, will seem an unlikely desert tornthose who do not accept McNamee’srndefinition. While the Antarctic sectionrncontains many poignant passages—forrnexample, a letter written by British explorerrnRobert Scott just before his deathrnin 1912 during an unsuccessful attemptrnto reach the South Pole first—that illustraternthe savage nature of all of Earth’srnarid lands, its inclusion serves only tornbroaden further the scope of an anthologyrnthat is already too ambitious in itsrnconception.rnIt is impossible, nevertheless, to dislikernan anthology that includes Edith Wharton,rnMark Twain, Charles Darwin,rnCharles M. Doughty, T.E. Lawrence,rnJorge Luis Borges, Mary Austin, JohnrnMuir, Edward Abbey, and Bruce Chatterton,rnto name just a few. Many of McNamee’srnselections are superb. An excerptrnfrom Mary Austin’s The Land ofrnLittle Rain leads the section on NorthrnAmerican deserts. In the selection chosenrnby McNamee, Austin (a contemporaryrnof John Muir) graphically definesrnthe desert country that first captured herrnimagination when she was a young womanrnnewly arrived in the Southwest: “Eastrnaway from the Sierras, south fromrnPanamint and Amargosa, east and southrn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn