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EssayReviews 97 “Why do you read?” a new friend at a party once asked me. It wasn’t a rhetorical question, or small talk. But before I could answer, he said it first, “I read to find out about my life.”Reading All Things Touched By Wind, I remem­ ber this conversation, becauseJohn Daniel’s poems remind me of how I want to live. This is a book I’ll pick up again and again, for pleasure, but also on days when the world feels wrong, my life feels wrong. And reading these poems I’ll remember what in the world, and what in my own life, bringsjoy. I’ll be reminded, again, of the power of words—how words, well-chosen, well-spoken, can help me (as in the poem “Dependence Day”) to envision, and to name, the new kinds of celebrations: ones thatunite, rather than divide, our human race with the rest of creation. But most ofall, these poemswill help me give thanks. In a time when some of the older religious rituals, the traditional forms of saying grace have lost much of their meaning; in a time when words all around us are used with less and less care (a point well made in the poem “A Modern Man Speaks of Animals”); Daniel’s poems give shape to mystery “that won’t be said,/ that almost forms upon my tongue/ as I listen/ for its missing shape of sound/ in wind and running water,/ in the stillness of the misted field.”A mystery for which each poem, in the act of naming the indefinable, becomes itself a new word. “The word,”says Daniel, “for which I make this home and pass it on.” INGRID WENDT Frankfurt am Main, Germany In the Loyal Mountains. By Rick Bass. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995. 168 pages, $21.95.) One dayIleftthe South, fled myjob, and ran to the heart of snow, the far Northwest. I live in a cabin with no electricity, and I’m never leaving. These words that open “The Valley”—one of ten short stories that make up Rick Bass’s new collection entitled In the Loyal Mountains—also trace the broad outline of the author’s own relationships with place. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, he grew up in Houston, spent time with his family in the hill country of central Texas, and attended college at Utah State University. He then worked and lived in the South before his 1987 move, with the artist Elizabeth Hughes, to a large ranch in the Yaak Valley in northwestern Mon­ tana. Bass’s literary exploration of these places begins with The Deer Pasture (1984), a memoir of his family’s deer lease in the Texas hill country, and continues through a rich variety of literary non-fiction that includes Wild to the /fieari (1987), OilNotes (1989), Winter:Notesfrom Montana (1991), and TheNineMile Wolves (1992), and through the ten short stories collected in The Watch (1989) and the three novellas in Platte River (1994). The move to the Rocky Mountain West is a point of fulcrum for Bass’s 98 WesternAmerican Literature literary nonfiction. Winter, The Nine-Mile Wolves, a forthcoming book about grizzlies, and his environmental essays in recent issues of Sierra and Audubon magazines trace the depth of Bass’s engagement with the landscapes of the West, the creatures who inhabit, try to inhabit, or once inhabited them, and the need to protect both the animals and the land. It is clear that with the move, Bass’s nonfiction began to feature a tough-minded environmentalism that has made his voice one of the most important of those contemporary western writers who work to conserve the land. His recent nonfiction urges us to cherish and protect what remains of our western wilderness landscapes. His short fiction, however, ranges more widely. The Yaak Valley is fea­ tured, but so are the past and present landscapes of Houston, the Texas hill country that he knew as a young man, and the landscapes of that part of the South—the area aroundJackson, Mississippi—where he lived before the move west. Even as the places featured in In theLoyalMountainsvary, we can see that...


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