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70 WesternAmerican Literature other, while essentially appropriate and natural, is often breathtaking. Back and forth she leads us: after developing a major motif and establishing a dominant metaphor, she takes the metaphor and gives it concrete application as a method of moving into the other motif. The center of Refuge is its title. Where does one find refuge from the destructions life brings? How can one face the loss of the special place or the special people? Williams answers, “My refuge exists in my capacity to love. If I can learn to love death then I can begin to find refuge in change.” The interweaving of the motifs from the natural and personal worlds provides continuous evidence of Williams’ artistry. The revelations in the Epi­ logue reveal the power of her insights and convictions. No student of natural history will want to miss the experience of witnessing ecosystems attacked by natural and cyclical forces, and no student of the West will be able to avoid Williams’newly defined symbol of the “West as testsite”in a nuclear age. In using personal experience to enhance her focus on biological systems rather than the other way round, Williams succeeds in drawing the “reader’s attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author” (The Elements of Style 70), one of the major challenges contemporary writers face—perhaps the major challenge for nature writers. When asked how to maintain that appropriate balance, Williams affirms that the secret is knowing what is “personal”and what is “private.” Refuge is a personal account of destruction and hope, recording natural ecological changes in special places. Refugealso is a personal reaction to another kind of destruction, one of ultimate consequences which has too often been unquestionably accepted by those it will destroy. Its message is that “Tolerating blind obedience in the name of patriotism or religion ultimately takes our lives.”Terry TempestWilliams is awriter ofuncommon courage who challenges all by asking, “Where are our risks as writers today approaching the twenty-first century?”Refugecharts the course. ROBERT M. BENTON Central Washington University Birds ofSorrow:Notesfrom a RiverJunction in NorthernNew Mexico. ByTom Ireland. (Somerville, Massachusetts: Zephyr Press, 1991. 231 pages, $12.95.) Sorrow is a very delicate entity. It has so many unattractive relations: selfpity , self-deception, self-importance, blindness, complaint. In the jacket blurb Joy Harjo maintains that Ireland never gets “in the way of the story the land has to tell.”Unfortunately, this is not so: sorrow and its relations even get in the way of the story Ireland has to tell. More unfortunately, his reverence for this place, his fantasies of Place, get so much in his way that ultimately he is cast out. The importance of this book is as a cautionary tale. Reviews 71 Ireland thinks he can just walk into a culture hundreds of years old and whine about being a stranger. When the willows by the river die of disease, he solemnly clears them and burns them because “they were a reminder ... of the unhealthiness in me, all those feelings ofwaste and failure that accumulate over the winter and have to be cleared away—buried, drowned, or burned—before there can be forgiveness and a starting over again.”At the center of the book is his account of stealing a magpie hatchling, raising it, and finally accidentally killing it in the door of his pickup. Stealing it bothers him only slightly: “I want so badly to regain my place as an inhabitant of the natural world—to prove that I belong in spite of my membership in the human species. But I’m a habitual outsider yet.” Beneath these well-crafted essays,journal pieces, and fiction is a story about Ireland being left by his wife and becoming a father alone with a young child, but what we read are the reverberations of that story. Ireland uses this place, the birds and water and people here, to show how we distract ourselves from our existence by thinking about it, how we hide in these thoughts, and how we make art out of that. ZITA INGHAM Arkansas State University Playing Cowboys: Low...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 70-71
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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