In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

B o o k R e v ie w s 4 2 3 Readers of WAL will be particularly interested in Campbell’s treatment of the travel narrative. As a storehouse for sublime set pieces, Franz Boasinformed anthropological observations, and careful geological interpretations, Campbell asserts that the travel journal became a way for wealthy tourists to justify their leisure as artistic and scientific labor while also affirming claims of ownership to these new lands. As a historian, Campbell deals with these narratives broadly; he does not offer a full sense of the scope of any single text. Though I would have liked more detailed analysis, this certainly suggests opportunities for further inquiry. Interested literary scholars might attend to the range of experiences contained within a single text, the organization patterns of the nanatives, or, simply, textual detail. WAL readers might also appreciate Campbell’s treatment of John Muir: the theories of glaciation Muir helped popularize serve Alaska travel writers well by making the landscape “legible” while also enabling a rhetoric of Native erasure. Despite the reliance upon Native labor to move through these land' scapes, scientific-oriented travelers focused on the geological at the expense of the cultural. As one follower of Muir put it, “Alaska has no history, ... except a geological history” (240). Although Campbell does not offer a history of Native culture here, he effectively writes humans back into the history of late nineteenth-century Alaska. As a recent transplant to Southeast Alaska and a long-time student of late nineteenth-century America, 1 found that Campbell’s monograph confirmed some familiar theses and opened up some interesting research questions. This will prove a useful companion for scholars interested in American empire, tour­ ism, and especially the last frontier state. Salal: Listening for the Northwest Understory. By Laurie Ricou. Edmonton, Alberta: NeWest Press, 2007. 263 pages, $34-95. Reviewed by Michael McDowell Portland Community College, Oregon Laurie Ricou’s Salal demonstrates the many different directions inquiry might go when ecocritical principles are applied to one quiet, overlooked item in the landscape. In this case, the item is the shiny, leathery-leaved evergreen shrub salal, and the landscape is its native range, the coastal Pacific Northwest from northern California to Alaska. But Ricou casts a wide net, which gives us a won­ derfully diverse set of voices speaking of salal from indigenous and immigrant cultures, in recorded oral interviews and in print, as well as in drawings, paint­ ings, photographs, and even music. The result is a highly informed polyphonic meditation on place, using the unpretentious Gaultheria shallon as central text. The contrast between Salal and one of its models, Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire (2001), highlights Ricou’s interest: Where Pollan explores high-profile apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato, Ricou explores such a low-profile, uncharis- 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 matic “background” plant that even people who have lived with it on the Northwest coast for years often don’t know what it is. Ricou is looking for the “under'Story,” the stories of “unnoticed people caring in different ways for their environment” (16). We listen especially to those who make a living by salal—nursery owners, salal “propagators,” and, most important, Cambodian “pickers” who spend their days in the woods cutting and snapping off the year’s new salal growth for florists worldwide. One interviewee, a professor at Washington State University, makes clear the significance of Ricou’s method for learning about salal: Speaking of the traditional pickers, he says, “They’re wonderful store-banks of knowledge. ... The knowledge is there. Is it in the university? No” (96). The book suggests that hands-on engagement with nature, even extraction, is how we learn and develop respect for the earth; passive observation is not enough. Salal grows organically from chapter to chapter, from discussion of the plant’s characteristics and naming (it’s called dza’west, “laughing benies,” in Coast Tsimshian) to a review of attention paid it over the past 150 years to explanations of the salal “industry...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 423-424
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.