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Reviews 107 Out of the Interior: The Lost Country. By Harold Rhensich. (Vancouver: Cacanadadada Press Ltd., 1993. 208 pages, $12.95.) In the promotional material for Out of the Interior: The Lost Country, the publisher proclaims that in this work Harold Rhensich has succeeded in “extending the forms of autobiography.” This work not only lives up to its billing, but may even exceed it. Rhensich’s memoir of growing up on his family’s farm in the Okanagan region of British Columbia is a fascinating portrayal of the immigrant experience in North America, and a perceptive commentary on the misguided ways in which humans have tried to control the land. Rhensich’s memories of his family’s farm are closely tied to those of his father, a German immigrant. Like John Muir, who wrote about life on his father’s Wisconsin farm over a century ago, Rhensich learns that the confron­ tational stance towards the land, astance that his father broughtwith him from the old world, is a self-defeating one: “[o]ver and over again my father was being taught a lesson, but he did not realize it until it was too late and he had lost even the land he loved.” His father’s hands—restlessly grasping—are a symbol of his approach to farming, as was his futile attempt to keep nature at bay by saturating the farmwith lethal pesticides that poison the sprayers aswell as the sprayed. Despite the family’s efforts, the farm was only a marginal proposition economically, and when it failed it took the family with it: “From that moment on, we were never a family again. The farm was all we had.” Piecing together the diffuse and often opaque images that our memories are comprised of is not the tidy, chronological process that is suggested by most autobiographicalwriting. Like dimly recalled dreams, memories are non­ linear, impressionistic, and frequently in need of explanatory footnotes. If the narrative line of Out of the Interior occasionally wavers, the reader is richly compensated with a series of vignettes that are moving, beautifully written, and, like dreams, sometimes startling in their clarity of vision. For Rhensich, the act of remembrance also maintains a vital and healing link to the past: “[memories] spring out of the air before me,justwhere I thought they were all along, where I thought I had lost them, but with one crucial difference: they are alive.” DANIEL G. PAYNE Honeoye, New York KeepIt Simple: A Defense oftheEarth. Byjohn Nichols. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992. 86 pages, $25.00.) John Nichols explains that several years ago his life had grown so “profes­ sionally complicated, emotionally chaotic, logistically absurd, and spiritually 108 Western American Literature fractured”that this noted author and photo-essayistwas hospitalized with chest pains and handed a lifetime prescription for digitalis. Nichols’s latest book, a lovely photo collection, is one product of his efforts to simplify and purify his existence. Admitting that his days often “still reek of personal contradictions and self-destructive impulses,”Nichols nonetheless has succeeded in treading the planet “with a lighter step . . . trying to mitigate even the smallest” harmful acts—trading his truck for a reconditioned bicycle, adopting a healthier diet, constantly conserving water and electricity, recycling most everything, buying only used clothing, even writing first drafts on the backs ofjunk-mail pieces. The color photographs in Keep It Simple are an elegant testimony to that success. Mainly close-ups of the commonplace—leaves, rippling water, a bit of rubblestone foundationwork, a bicycle bell—Nichols’ photos reflect a man very intentionally scaling down and back on life. Although a few are much more encompassing shots—a lone soul on a snow-covered stretch of high desert, a canyon sharply cut by late afternoon shadows—the photographs powerfully illustrate Nichols’realization there is “no need to seek hyperbole in order to praise the earth.” KeepIt Simpleis no mere coffee table book. Quite the contrary, in the short (fourteen pages) prose section that opens KeepIt Simple, Nichols makes it very clear that he has avery specific agenda, namely to convince people to do as he has done—to simplify their lives, to ease their assaulton the planet...


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