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2 1 2 WAL 3 3 ( 2 ) S u m m e r 1 9 9 8 into grass: “tangled blades of green / feathering my thighs, soft as lips.” Poetically the women describe grouse dancing, dream of monstrous yellow spiders dragging them off to nests of hay, or acknowledge their desire to “howl at the moon and piss around the edges” of land they do not “own” but fiercely claim as home. Relationships with animals often seem more important in their world than relationships with people. The stories blur boundaries between wild and domestic as women remember diapering frogs, feeding domesticated elk, leaving “horsehair from the currycomb / Where birds can find it to build nests.” While arguing that the word “cowboy” is misleading and should be changed to “cowmom,” these women explain with poignant examples how nurturing must always be balanced by death. Hasselstrom’s self-proclaimed “grumpy” introduction also makes an important contribution to western American literary criticism. Her salty tirade pointedly challenges urban appropriation of rural culture and “Bungee-jump journalists.” She agrees with a Wyoming poet whom she quotes as saying west­ ern history was mostly written by “trappers, travelers, traders, transients, tourists and transplants.” However, a quick perusal through back-of-thebook credits reveals that even Hasselstrom and her coeditors, with the noble goal of producing an anthology written by “real” rural women, include far too many urban-based non-natives, as well as academics and professional writers. But the magic still works and perhaps is made stronger by including such a wide variety of voices. Views from naive first-winterback -to-the-landers juxtaposed against fourth-generation, scarred survivors gives deep insight into the sobering power of place. All the Powerful Things: A Sportswom an’s Notebook. By Gretchen Legler. Seattle: Seal Press, 1995. 193 pages, $20.95/$ 12.95. Reviewed by Jodi Varon Eastern Oregon University Gretchen Legler continues the American tradition of searching for the self in the natural world, but she has modified the form of the personal/ natural history essay one step further by splicing the transcendentalist vision of reflection with an idiosyncratic challenge to accept the risks and responsibilities of what Audre Lorde calls the “erotic’s electric charge” (83). Legler begins by exploring the isolation of a woman hunter who longs for a “space . . . as a woman . . . [a] space between the borderlines” (14). Though the subtitle of the collection would suggest that Legler will give us that rare glimpse of a sportswoman’s mind as it contemplates the masculine world of hunting, the collection quickly veers from Legler as hunter/partner to Legler as pilgrim. Legler’s pilgrimage is interesting, but the title of the collection is misleading. The breakup of her marriage and her lesbianism is b o o k Re v ie w s 2 1 3 layered over a difficult relationship with her father that Legler tries to sal­ vage or at least explain. The central argument for the collection comes almost in the middle, with Lorde’s “erotic charge” extended to Legler’s connections with hunting, preparing, sharing, and eating the things that she has killed; her charge as a sexual being; her charge as a member of a community (of writers, teachers, lesbians, friends, family). The beauty and texture of the collection is seen best in the open-ended pondering in the final chapter. Legler is camping with a group of women in the northern Minnesota boundary waters, and a friend is recounting an experience viewing the northern lights. Legler represents the tone of the entire collection and its pull between the natural world, self, and awareness when she says, “You always must go back to your own particular life with a vague ache in your heart; an ache that suggests to you there is another place you should be, although you don’t know where it is” (182). The collection does not conclude so much as end with reiterated connections to the intan­ gible world, but the honesty of the quest is compelling. F ear Falls Away and Other Essays from Hard and Rocky Places. By Janice Emily Bowers. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997. 175 pages, $35.00/$ 16.95. Reviewed by...


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pp. 212-213
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