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August 07, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

IF MOUNTAINS DIE: A New Mexico Memoir by John Nichols, photographs by William Davis (Norton: $19.95; 144 pp.). When he celebrates the beauty of the mountains near his home in Taos, the author of "The Sterile Cuckoo" writes with contagious enthusiasm: "Sometimes you turn a corner and an aspen tree or the shape of a cloud will knock you flat on your ass with a quick little uppercut you never in a million years expected. . . ." Nichols contrasts the ethereal setting with humorous reflections on the crises of daily life. However, when he turns to local politics, Nichols trots out the cliches of '60s rhetoric, lamenting the displacement of local Hispanics by rich Anglo arrivistes-- forgetting or ignoring how recently he came to Taos.

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