There’s a good deal of world’s-end whimpering in the air these days. May I suggest that we begin with a bang — even if it’s merely to journey into the great outdoors? “Bang!” went my heart when I opened the photographer Jack Spencer’s powerful THIS LAND: An American Portrait (University of Texas Press, $45). There isn’t a garden in it — only the vestige of one, vines creeping up the side of a boarded-up cottage in Xenia, Ill., a sign of irrepressible life.

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