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B o o k R e v ie w s 307 sense of social justice and land. Approaching the text in this manner should provide a stronger continuity and comprehension of Kocks’s goals. A Friend of the Earth. By T. Coraghessan Boyle. N ew York: V iking, 2000. 271 pages, $24.95/$ 13.00. Reviewed by James Guignard U niversity of N evada, Reno “I’m afraid I really don’t see any ray of hope for our species,” T. Coraghessan Boyle states for an Outside magazine biography. His apocalyptic novel A Friend of the Earth demonstrates his sentiment. Set in 2025-26, the novel tells the story of an aging environmentalist, Tyrone Tierwater, and his actions to protect western forests. One first encounters Ty in Santa Ynez, managing a ragtag lot of nearly extinct animals owned by an aging pop singer, when Ty’s wife, Andrea, walks back into his life. A founding member of Earth Forever!, Andrea plans to jumpstart the now defunct activist group by publishing a book about the life of her and Ty’s daughter, Sierra, a martyred treesitter. While learning Sierra’s story, the reader comes to know Ty and his renegade activities in what he rec­ ognizes as an increasingly corrupted environmental organization. Ty prefers clandestine, destructive actions, while Andrea and her cronies evolve into another version of corporate America, complete with cell phones and BMWs. Ultimately, Ty’s monkeywrenching lands him in prison, jeopardizing his rela­ tionships with his wife, daughter, and fellow environmentalists. A flood of epic proportions and the publication of Sierra’s biography bring Ty and Andrea back together, and they retire into the Sierra Nevada. Boyle’s novel is funny, lively, and complex. The main theme explores the dangers of consumerist society— not big news really, except that I find the way in which Boyle implicates activist organizations (especially the western wilder­ ness movement) in consumerism to be appropriately thought-provoking. One of the more interesting sub-themes raises the question of when and to what extent children should be involved in environmental activism. Ty and Andrea take the thirteen-year-old Sierra to a logging protest in the Siskiyou, which involves cementing themselves into a ditch dug across a logging road. The plan backfires when the local police refuse to let the press in to see the protesters. When a “pot commando” in cahoots with the local sheriff and Forest Service lands his sledge too close to Sierra’s embedded feet, causing her to utter “the smallest exhalation of pained surprise,” Ty lunges at him and gets jail time for assault (48, 50). Not surprisingly, the Feds are portrayed as bad guys, but Boyle also challenges the notion of including adolescents in protests. Granted, Sierra becomes an activist-extraordinaire, but her experience recalls human ecologist Paul Shepard’s notion that we require our children to mature too soon. 308 WAL 36.3 F A L L 2001 From the thinly veiled names (Earth Forever!, Axxam Corporation) to treesitters (remember Julia Butterfly Hill?) to apocalyptic floods, Boyle taps into the cultural pulse of contemporary western environmentalism. A t the core, A Friend of the Earth suggests that both greens and non-greens are doomed because of consumerist tendencies. Environmentalists already recognize this as a central dilemma. But Boyle does question, in a fantastically written and entertaining way, what gains have been made and what approaches are avail­ able to activist organizations attempting to become friends of the earth in the midst of rampant consumption. Straight White M ale. By Gerald W. Haslam. R eno: U n iversity o f N ev ad a Press, 2000. 274 pages, $17.00. Reviewed by Delbert E. Wylder Tem ple, Texas Gerald Haslam is known on the West Coast as a “California” writer and, in short stories, novels, and essays, the chronicler of the Okie experience in the Central Valley, particularly the area around Bakersfield and its oil fields. That localizing critical perspective has always seemed a bit limiting, and it is espe­ cially so for this superb novel. All realistic novels must be set somewhere, and this is set in the Central Valley, though the Upton family has moved north...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 307-308
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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