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B o o k R e v ie w s Fiber. By Rick Bass. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998. 64 pages, 12 b&w illus., $ 15.95/Signed, hand-numbered, limited edition, $100.00. Reviewed by Michael P. Branch University of Nevada, Reno Fiber, the thirteenth book by Monta­ na nature writer Rick Bass, is a four-part narrative that combines art and activism, fiction and nonfiction, autobiography and literary natural history, celebration and loss, personal storytelling and politi­ cal appeal, all in unusual and provocative ways. Illustrated by Elizabeth Hughes Bass and written in graceful prose that is often gripping in its direct appeal to the reader, this story-length book suc­ cessfully engages a number of important themes, issues, and problems current in both literary and environmentalist dis­ course. Centrally concerned with what Bass considers the vital relationship between literary art and environmental activism, Fiber implicitly argues that nature writing, which has traditionally been devoted to Laura Lee Stay Bradshaw. DENE. 1991. the pastoral celebration of nature, must Life-sired silicone bronze. nQWbe devoted to the protection of wild Utah Arts Council Public Art Program. , y -, , i i«i c \ Photograph by Sabine Barcatta. PlaCeS' BaSS eXPloreS the dilemma of the ___________________________ literary naturalist at century’s end: how can the nature writer engage in poetic celebration of nature amidst the rampant degradation of the natural envi­ ronments upon which human inspiration and art depend? What price is paid by a writer whose energies are sapped by endless political battles to pro­ tect the biodiversity and beauty of an endangered ecosystem? Fiber offers a painful, honest measurement of how individuals suffer and are transformed when they must be devoted not to the artistic celebration of nature, but to the often heartbreaking work of defending the natural world against threats to its ecological integrity. B ook R e v ie w s 3 5 7 A particularly innovative aspect of Fiber is its generic hybridity. Although “nature writing” has traditionally been defined as nonfiction writ­ ing, Bass’s work often challenges established generic distinctions. The first three parts of Fiber are narrated by a series of engaging personae—the “taker” geologist, the “giver” artist, the “fighter” activist, and the fantastic “log fairy”—but Bass opens the fourth and final part of the book with the surpris­ ing declaration that “[t]here is, of course, no story” (45). This move throws the fictional personae of the first three sections into relief, as the story now dramatizes its point about art and activism by mirroring, in its own structural form, the argument that art must become political when the world upon which it depends is critically endangered. Contrasting starkly with the fic­ tional narration that dominates the earlier parts of the story, the nonfictional approach of this fourth section strips away fiction to reveal the anger and pain of a person whose desire to write imaginative literature has been over­ whelmed by his passion to protect the last remaining wild places in the Yaak, his home valley in Montana’s northern Rockies. The story, which has now poignantly ceased to be fiction, concludes with a forceful, direct appeal to the reader, as if to suggest that only writers and readers working together can save the natural world upon which art depends. Environmental activists will recognize in Fiber the care, fatigue, des­ peration, and hope that come from a life of fighting for those places that make life worth living. Scholars of nature writing will applaud the innova­ tive ways in which the elegiac strain of so much contemporary, place-based writing is here transformed by Bass’s humor, frustration, anger, and love into a moving literary call to action on behalf of the natural world. Journeys toward the Original Mind: The Long Poems of Qary Snyder. By Robert Schuler. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1995. 146 pages, $39.95. Reviewed by Sarah Sloane U niversity of Puget Sound, Tacom a, W ashington The second volume in the Studies in Modem Poetry series, Schuler’s book presents a theoretical framework for understanding Gary Snyder’s long poems that is itself sometimes overshadowed by the richness of Snyder’s own powerful, poetic language. We...


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