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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 has suffered (154). Even Bass sounds as though he sometimes wonders what he has gotten himself into. “I had no inkling that I would grow up to be hated,” he writes. “All I ever wanted was to write stories” (222). His love for the Yaak has not allowed him this life, however. At times, Why I Came West reads more like a memoir of the life (the short stories and novels, the time for family and solitude) that might have been than the life that Bass has lived. But as consistently filled as this memoir is with arguments such as “the west has never been anything but a colony of the extractive industries, feasting (with the benefit of full congressional subsidy) on the splendor of these public wildlands ,” it is finally impossible to imagine Bass living differently than he has (45). While admitting “many days I long mightily for a new young activist, or a handful of them” (126) to come join the fight, Bass insists, “my body and spirit are battered by twenty-plus years of the struggle ... my resolve is undiminished, firm and steady” (64). In Why 1 Came West, he offers his readers, no matter what landscape they love and fight for, reflections to inspire a renewal of their own resolve. ~New Stories from the Southwest. Edited by D. Seth Horton. Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2007. 288 pages, $32.95/$16.95. Reviewed by Justin St. Germain Stanford University, Palo Alto, California Perhaps the most remarkable thing about New Storiesfrom the Southwest is that it did not already exist. The region as delineated in the preface encompasses some of the most vibrant literary communities in the country. From the oral traditions of its indigenous peoples to the creative writing departments of its contemporary universities, the American Southwest has always been a story forge. And yet too rarely has it been recognized as a distinct literary region. Most existing regional short story anthologies that mine this vein have drawn broader boundaries, including the Southwest within a larger and more nebulous American West. But it can be problematic to claim that modern-day Seattle and Southern Arizona belong to the same literary region, which perhaps helps B o o k R e v ie w s 4 1 9 to explain why many other anthologies skirt the geographical issue entirely, considering the term Western as naming a genre instead of a place. . And while still others have preceded Horton in culling the best of the Southwest, this anthology is unique in that it highlights new writing. Each of the nineteen stories was published in a North American literary journal in 2006; in this way, it resembles the venerable New Stories from the South series. But Horton’s is the first such effort to give the Southwest the same treatment. And the best stories in this book justify that effort. Matt Clark’s “The Secret Heart of Christ,” the gem of the bunch, is a genre-busting work that stuffs its sixty pages with everything from rattlesnakes to serial killers and yet somehow brings it all to bear on a complex...


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pp. 418-419
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