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3 8 2 WAL 3 7 .3 F a l l 2 0 0 2 ship between a White woman and a Hispanic man in the context of Nevada’s ranching culture. Other stories in The River Underground examine the wars of the twentieth century. The madness of Vietnam appears in H. Lee Barnes’s remarkable fable “Stonehands and the Tigress.” Richard Wiley shares a tale of moral ambiguity from World War II: in an excerpt from his novel Soldiers in Hiding (1986), two Japanese Americans, stranded in Japan at the start of the war, become prison guards in the Philippines yet are no less at the mercy of a sadistic commandant than are their American charges. The problems of growth and environment, always contentious fares in the Wise Use Movement’s home state, are absent in most of The River Underground. Some characters in the stories do show an appreciation for the natural world, but the ultimate question about growth appears only in Donald Beranati’s “The Excellent House,” in which two erstwhile friends debate the merits ofextending development into fresh territory. As usually happens in the real world, the issue remains unresolved in the story. I came to this anthology with high hopes, based both on Griffin’s priorwork and on my own homesickness for the Great Basin after two years in northeastern Minnesota. I wished to recall a Nevada now sinking into memory: the smell of sagebrush, the scrunch ofdecomposed gravel underfoot during walks in the Sierra foothills, or even Tad Dunbar, the great Buddha ofReno TV news. Had I held to that expectation, I might have been disappointed in The River Underground. Instead Icame away with a deeper appreciation for the Silver State and its diver­ sity ofexperience. In a way, perhaps I did get what I came for: a sense of the place itself, not as I wished to remember it, but as it is. That sense, I believe, is the best thing about the recent spate of statespecific anthologies, both poetry and fiction, that has appeared in the past few years. The River Underground is a fine addition to that body of work. The M an Who Swam with Beavers: Stories. By Nancy Lord. M inneapolis, Minn.: Coffee House Press, 2001. 250 pages, $14.95. Reviewed by Paulette Callen N ew York, New York The Man Who Swam with Beavers is a collection of short stories by Nancy Lord, an Alaska writer and, by her own description, “a commercial fisherman” (book jacket). These stories were “largely inspired by the titles and themes ofsto­ ries belonging to Native Americans, particularly Alaska’s Athabaskans” (author’s acknowledgements). Three stories are based on characters from literature (Buck from Jack London’s Call of the Wild), history (Anton Chekhov), and the con­ temporary corporate scene (Walt Disney). The collection forms the mosaic of a worldview: animals occupy their places in the world with beauty and rightness; people do not. With a few exceptions, BOOK REVIEW S 3 8 3 instead offulfilling their humanity, they live like beavers or turn into wolverines; they wander or they die. “The Attainable Border of the Birds” is a small masterpiece about one of these exceptions—a man who finds his life’s meaning through a nurturing connection to birds. Here, Lord is at her best with flawless prose, matchless descriptions of birds and the places they inhabit, and a compelling tale of trans­ formation. Other stories are not so successful. The original “Wolverine Grudge” story, for example, is about a wolverine’s grudge against someone who breaks a taboo. In Lord’s piece of the same name, an obsessed and mean-spirited woman gradually assumes the attributes of a wolverine, eventually turning into one. The story isverylike FranzKafka’s “Meta­ morphosis.” Unfortunately, it lacks the moral lesson of the original and the haunting tension of the latter. Full of lush descriptions and poetic language, “The Man Who Swam with Beavers” is one ofher best stories but in the end doesn’t quite work. How a man who lives with beavers survives on tree bark and without clothes in the north­ ern winter are not explained. In the bone-lean tales of Native...


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pp. 382-383
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