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218Fourth Genre nature essay this simply wfll not do, of course. ImpUcitly and expUcidy the eighteen writers Lane and Thurmond have gathered together here confront the dominance of a wüderness aesthetic, "caUing [Southern] places into being" and "dramatizing in the process how they matter." UnUke the West, or, more accurately, our fantasies about wüderness in the West, Southern places matter, not because they are untouched, but more often because they have been touched, have absorbed humanity's presence, survived its excesses, and nurtured its history. In the volume's first essay, "Good Days at Black Creek," Rick Bass, long associated with theWest, learns that he must adapt both his sensibUity and his stride to a Mississippi landscape: "It is not wüderness in the sense that it is five hundred mues away from a telephone pole or a hard-topped road or a farm with running water and electricity, but it is wilderness in the sense that it has never been wflder, that this is how it was and always has been." In these delta woodlands he must "practice unlearning [his] short, shuffling, powerclimbing steps" in favor of "rhythmic, ground-eating ones."The editors and the writers of The Woods Stretchedfor Miles ask us to do the same: practice unlearning so that we might learn to traverse new ground, find worth and beauty in what we might previously have been bUnd to. I do not mean to suggest here that the writers present one damaged, diminished place after another. They do not, though a few, UkeWendeU Berry, do not flinch in the face ofhuman destructiveness: "From where I Uve and work, I never have to look far to see that the earth does indeed pass away." Nevertheless there is plenty of beauty here too, although it is not always the type ofbeauty our imaginations and the genre grew up on. The human footprint is pressed deep into the Southern landscape; our aesthetic, as ones who would appreciate both these places and the essays about them, must learn to accommodate it. Reviewed by Linda Peterson E. B. White: The Emergence of an Essayist Robert L. Root Jr. University of Iowa Press, 1999 256 pages, cloth, $29.95 Homage to Comments, Columns, Dispatches, and "Once More to the Lake" Writing a book, particularly a scholarly study, most particularly a scholarly study on the work ofE. B. White, mustfeel a little like kissing the ring ofsomegreat and venerated potentate. Onefeels at once presumptuous, insecure, and enormously excited by Book Reviews219 the experience, even as one cannot help wondering where that ring might once have been. To have such thoughts is the critic's obligation. While reading E. B. White: The Emergence of an Essayist, we found ourselves not a little awed by a careful kind of scholarship we wül never in aU our days accomplish. Robert L. Root is to be applauded for his meticulous rendering of White's Uterary biography. He aUows no leaf to remain unturned in his exploration of the means by which White's writing came into being. Each chapter of the book chronicles one of the movements by which White's writing progressed over the course of his professional lifetime , examining in particular the ways various contexts within which he worked served to shape, enrich, and deflectWhite's essais. In a curious reversal of the usual progression of the classical rhetorical canons, the delivery systems by which White's writing reached his readership (paragraphs, letters, comments, etc., published weekly or monthly) became his chiefmeans ofinvention and design, channeling his composing into necessary and "habitual ways of approaching the actual drafting" (219). Because White both flourished and languished under the constraints of his day-to-day work, his normal composing habits became something of a Dr. JekyU to his Mr. Hyde, an Abbott to his CosteUo, an "other" to his desire to be an essayist, an other that both resisted and enabled, informed and detracted, defined and diffused. These tensions and the struggle they engendered, Root argues, produced White's distinctive style, perspective, and voice, as weU as his most important contributions to contemporary writing and particularly to the modern essay. Nevertheless, Uke the surface of...


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