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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 are more likely to remember, for example, Snyder’s reminder that people today are “trading all their precious time / for things” (10) or that a cityscape is populated by “[e]mpty eye sockets of build­ ings just built / Soul-less” (96) than recall the pages of Schuler’s discussion of alienation and capitalism, or the ways in which those of us who do not enjoy an “original mind” are lured by immediate pleasures (67). As an analy­ sis of Gary Snyder’s two major long poems, Myths & Texts and Mountains and 3 5 8 WAL 3 4 .3 F a l l 1999 Rivers without End, this short book ultimately attempts the impossible: to connect Snyder’s poems with diverse religious traditions (including Buddhism, shamanism, Native American beliefs, and Hinduism), modernist beliefs and practices (including the work of Robinson Jeffers, Ezra Pound, and Walt Whitman), contemporary ideas of sustainable living, community, and environmentalism, and an implicit critique of capitalist values and prac­ tices—all in fewer than 150 pages. Schuler ultimately posits the notion of “original mind” as a central instrument in Snyder’s poetic attempt to cure our modem alienation from nature. “Original mind,” as Schuler describes it, seems to be both state and discipline, a state of being realized by practices shamanistic and Buddhist. Schuler hears Snyder posing “original mind” agonistically, as the counter­ point to “the controlled, apparently ordered world of the modern rational­ ist” (5). However, where Snyder’s poems are both subtle and supple in the ways they question the self and its practices in our troubled world, Schuler’s interpretations are sometimes abrupt, rigid, troubling in their allusive breadth, and even breathless as he attempts to encompass cultural traditions aphoristically— or economic concepts and dense scientific ideas too quickly. Take, for example, this representative sentence: “Stars may be the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 357-358
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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