I love Tucson and Arizona, which, given these heated and trying times, is a sentiment that can feel a lot like perseverance.

So it was hard to read author Rick Moody's take on us in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and not just because we all know he wasn't walking around town in 114-degree heat.

It was never that hot here this summer, just like the first stoplight on Speedway never appeared in the 1950s, as he claimed.

No, what was painful was that he was so quick to claim to know and love us when it was evident after more than five years of visiting here he still doesn't understand us.

Because if he did understand the Old Pueblo and all of its intriguing and frustrating complexities - from water usage to border crime - he certainly wouldn't have made so many little errors in his vignette, much less suggested the Giffords shooting fit with Tucson's identity.

It's easy to see the poverty across Tucson or the carnage of the housing crisis, just as it's easy to admire monsoon clouds building over the Catalinas like looming anvils in the sky. It all makes for a landscape of extremes and harsh dissonance, which is the favorite national narrative of Arizona these days. The Arizona question. The Arizona problem. The Arizona paradox.

Here we have the rugged and unforgiving desert paired with the yearning for the beautiful relief of rain. Here we have the impoverished border city - "a somewhat violent city" with "bodies in the ravines" - with its easygoing locals rolling around on unicycles, playing banjos and camping beneath palo verdes (Where did he find these people in the 114-degree heat?).

Here we have a city of such harsh extremes that its beautiful and promising congresswoman gets shot in the head by a schizophrenic, and somehow to Moody this makes sense in our narrative.

"But when I heard about the attempt on Giffords's life, based on what I know of Tucson - the bodies in the ravines, the poverty-stricken blocks, the gangs, the meth labs, the economic downturn that has wiped out the real-estate market in town - I was not terribly surprised. Sad but not surprised," Moody writes.

Tucson always makes a fine specimen for East Coast writers to magnify for East Coast readers - even if what gets shown isn't always accurate.

A few years ago, the New York Times Magazine wrote a story about the musician Neko Case, which began with a scene at Zinburger in the Foothills, only the writer placed it downtown.

The reporter then ended the piece with a view of Tucson from a Whole Foods Market where they had gone "to buy produce of integrity" (read: overpriced) and offered this view of the city from the Foothills: "The whole place, the whole city below, exuded both desperation and determination, mixed in with its meth fumes."

And so Rick Moody picks up the tale of our desperate determination as seen from above. Tucson is a "place of startling beauty and great difficulty."

These harsh extremes are poetic, exotic and gritty, but they miss so much.

The devil is in the details, even if it's prosaic.

It was never 114 here this summer. In June, it hit 112, which is the peak for the summer. In August, the high has been 106. The first stoplight on Speedway was built in 1945, not the 1950s (Thank you, Arizona Historical Society). And while the sight of "Tucson's golf-resort facade" makes Moody "want to lie down and die" because "it seems especially inadvisable in a town so nearly bereft of water," the truth is most golf courses use treated effluent. And even then most effluent is still deposited into the Santa Cruz for recharge.

And so it goes with crime, which is actually down in Tucson; and meth, which is mostly made in superlabs in Mexico.

There are broad strokes of truth to Moody's words. To love Tucson is to be impervious to strip malls and acceptant of not always having sidewalks. It's tasting great Mexican food at taco trucks, and choosing to see a lush green desert instead of a barren landscape of dirt and dust. It's living with and in poverty. It's celebrating the monsoon. And, yes, there is meth.

Moody says he knows and loves us, but he gets so much wrong and then pins our identity to our darkest moment. He says he is not surprised by the Giffords shooting here, and yet fails to see a community that was shocked by it and yearns not to be defined by it.

Perhaps on his next visit to town, Moody will see this and more. It's right before his eyes, between the anvil clouds and the unforgiving desert.

Contact columnist Josh Brodesky at 573-4242 or jbrodesky@azstarnet.com