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

188 Western American Literature used tojustify their activities with anew definition of the chase. As Kerasote writes, we mayhavetomaintainitas“oneofourimportantandfundamentalweddingswithnature.” WAYNEVANZWOLL Utah State University American Nature Writing 1996. Edited by JohnA. Murray. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996. 300pages, $15.00.) American Nature Writing 1997. Edited by JohnA. Murray. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1997. 269pages, $15.00.) Back in 1994, Sierra Club Books inaugurated its annual American Nature Writing series, editedby JohnA. Murray and dedicatedto the presentation of what Barry Lopez hascalled the“literatureofhope.”Nowinitsfourthyear, this admirable series continues to expand and extendthe boundaries ofwhat we knowas “nature writing,” andto intro­ duce readersto newvoices inthefield. The carefully selected essays inAmerican Nature Writing 1996 focus primarily on place, not, says editor Murray, “in the abstract sense, but [as] home residence.” Such a theme is of great importance to those of us who live in the West, where the continuing abstraction of the wild threatens many of the places the writers in this volume discuss. The crucial distinctionbetweenabstract andconcrete visions ofplace ismade especially clearinessaysbyBarryLopez, whoexplains his senseofstewardshiptowardhis Oregon home; by Richard K. Nelson, who discusses the role place names play in the way we express the “connection between humanity and earth”; and by Deborah Tall, who con­ cludes that inaculture asmobile asours, “havingasenseofplacemay ... require acon­ tinual act ofimagination.”Fully athirdofthisvolume is dedicatedto previously unpub­ lished works, including essays byAdrienne Ross on the wild falcons who have made a home in urban America and by Kate Boyes, whose face-to-face encounter with a bear while dozing by a mountain stream leaves her singing “out of a well of gladness newly tapped.” The next issue inthe series,American Nature Writing 1997, takes wildplaces as its central theme: “howbest to protect them, confer respect, [and] celebrate [their] beauty.” Ofspecial interest towesternreaders inthis regardwill beRickBass’simpassionedplea on behalfofhis belovedYaakValley in Montana and Don Schueler’s careful discussion ofthe ethics oflivingin close contact with nature. Once again, Murray has also selected some excellent first publications, including David Petersen’s reminder of the inherent intelligence of all animals andRick McIntyre’sjoyous narrative on the return of wolves toYellowstone. Still, this collection is regrettably uneven in its overall thematic conception. Some entries, in fact, hardly appeartobe “nature writing”at all, most notably SusanJ. Tweit’s essay on illegal immigration along the Chihuahuan frontier. Tweit writes well and with greatfeelingaboutthisimportantissue, comparing“illegal”immigrantstoanotherfamil­ iar“illegal”immigrantintheWest—theRussianthistle, ortumbleweed. But, toinvertthe well-known anecdote aboutA River Runs Through It (“There are trees in this book!”), I question whether thepresence of“trees” (or tumbleweeds)justifies an essay’s inclusion inan anthology ofnature writing. Reviews 189 At times, Ialsofoundmyselfwishingfor amore scholarlytreatment oftheinclud­ edworks.Whetherthroughoversightordisinclination, Murray’sintroductionsfailtosit­ uate the works in his collections within the overall context of contemporaryAmerican nature writing, as thetitle ofthe series wouldsuggest.Also, the introductions canbe as self-indulgent as they are rudimentary. With each successive entry in the series, Murray’s opening narratives grow longer, while the portion which actually introduces the anthologyremains overlybriefandinadequate. But suchquibbles are withMurray’seditorial decisions rather thanwith the essays he has selected and are likelyto be problems only for scholars inthe fieldofAmerican nature writing, who are probably not the intended audience for this series. That anum­ ber ofthe selections arereprints fromreadily availablejournals (such as Orion, Sierra, and Audubon), or from often-studied books by major authors (such as Terry Tempest Williams’s Desert Quartet, Ann Zwinger’s Downcanyon, and Edward O. Wilson’s Naturalist) remindsmethatthis seriesisprimarilydesignedforthegeneralreadingpub­ lic, whohavefar less interest in scholarly apparatus thandoacademics. Forthat impor­ tant audience, one too often ignored by more scholarly anthologists, both American Nature Writing 1996 andAmerican Nature Writing 1997 will provide an overview of contemporaryAmerican writing about nature whichisboth informative and enjoyable. RICHARD HUNT University ofNevada, Reno Broken Country: Mountains and Memory. By C. L. Rawlins. (NewYork: Henry Holt, 1996. 279pages, $25.00.) Those ofus who were on college campuses duringthe late 1960s and early 1970s will forever puzzle over the dilemmaposedby the draft and a distant war inVietNam. Those ofus who, at the same time, sought solace indistant parts oftheAmericanWest will appreciate the instincts of C. L. Rawlins. Pushed in one direction by his family, pulled in another by a mercurial woman, searching for the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 188-189
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.