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B o o k R e v ie w s 4 1 7 the boys he met at camp—these are the posts to which he tethers his earliest memories, not the land. Iowa was something he would escape. Land and the natural world only betray him, strand him on a cliff, leave him without fire in the middle of the prairie, conceal their histories of atrocity. In often comic moments, Price chides his own inexperience and his haste to be away. Gradually, first through circumstance and later by choice, he begins to see the land around him as wild rather than domesticated and to pay attention to what “lurk[s] in the margins” (151). As with his previous book, Not Just Any Land (2004), readers will see the grasslands in new ways. Through vivid imagery, specific details, and a tender­ ness in his prose, he has “filled what was once empty” (151). We learn that Iowa is the most “ecologically altered state in the union, with less than onetenth of 1 percent of its native habitats remaining” (145). What is remarkable about Man Killed by Pheasant, though, is the hope Price finds amid all the loss. And that hope is experienced through our kinship with the land, how his and yours and my histories collide with the histories of the birds and the grasses, the way we have suffered the same losses, survived the same threats, and remain on this planet together. Price’s stories remind us of the relationships that connect us to each other and to the natural world, and the form of his memoir replicates those connections moving between people and place. In making himself “vul­ nerable to place,” he reveals his humanity as well as our own (156). Both of these books are extraordinary gifts in the way they throw us back on ourselves, causing us to consider who we are and how we live. Ultimately, the real gift lies in the rich and resonant prose found in their pages, moving these memoirs, like all good memoir, beyond story, beyond westernness, and into the realm of art. Why I Came West. By Rick Bass. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. 238 pages, $24.00. Reviewed by Paul Bogard Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin For the past two decades, in essay after essay, book after book, Rick Bass has endeavored to share his love for Montana’s Yaak Valley and his desire to see at least some of the Yaak given wilderness protection. In his latest book, the memoir Why I Came West, Bass again shares this love and desire, and many readers will again admire Bass’s passion and his commitment to this place. The most powerful parts of Bass’s new book, however, are the moments in “this story of love” when he tells of the personal side of his activism— of the hatred he has endured and the cost to his writing (1). While some readers may find a repetition of themes that comes from portions of eight of the thirteen chapters having been previously published, the best chapters in Why I Came West (“Landscape and Imagination,” “The 4 1 8 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e W in t e r 2 0 0 9 Question,” “Oil,” and “Who We Are, What We Do”) rank among Bass’s finest writing. Indeed, Bass’s writing about his twenty-one years of activism on behalf of the Yaak is worth the price of admission alone and ought to be required reading for anyone who loves the West— or any wild place. While admitting that his life of activism “is not the life I would ever have chosen,” Bass calls apathy our “second worst addiction,” after oil, and explains, “No one I respect could stand by and watch a landscape they love this much be damaged without raising a voice” (222, 208, 64). Perhaps few of us would be willing to raise our voices as forcefully as Bass has raised his, especially after reading of “the relentless attacks and ... the always simmering, the always present atmosphere of hate” that he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 417-418
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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