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Reviewed by:
  • Other Country: Barry Lopez and the Community of Artists by James Perrin Warren
  • David Thomas Sumner
James Perrin Warren, Other Country: Barry Lopez and the Community of Artists. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2015. 240 pp. Cloth, $50.

Although the oft-quoted claim that race, class, and gender have become the "holy trinity" of literary criticism may continue to hold true, in Other Country: Barry Lopez and the Community of Artists James Perrin Warren takes a different direction entirely. Warren is interested in the "aesthetic, ethical and spiritual meanings" Lopez creates in community with other artists (184). In this useful, perceptive work, Warren examines Lopez's writing in connection with the work of photographers, painters, sculptors, and musicians with whom Lopez has cultivated long and fruitful creative relationships. The result includes not only a deep discussion of the works of these artists along with Lopez's, but also over thirty illustrations and color [End Page 360] plates aiding readers to visualize the connections Warren—and Lopez—make.

Warren argues that Lopez's body of work is the result of three significant practices. First, Lopez finds others who have a lived knowledge of animals, landscapes, and Indigenous cultures and becomes their apprentice. Second, he "participates in communities, often communities that he creates." It is within these communities, Warren claims, that Lopez performs an "ethical questioning as rigorous and probing as any philosopher's" (5). Finally, Warren argues that Lopez engages profoundly with the art produced by this community—painting, sculpture, film, music, dance—creating an aesthetic sensibility that forms the foundation of Lopez's writing, allowing him to travel—physically, intellectually, artistically, ethically—into the "other country" of the title.

The initial chapter, "Learning to See," examines Lopez's long relationship with photographer Robert Adams and his photographs. The book then opens up into a journey through visual and performed art and its deep connection with Lopez's writing, exploring many avenues of aesthetic and ethical inquiry. Beautiful illustrations, among them the immaculately reproduced color plates of several artists—Alan Magee, Richard Long, Richard Roland, and Ben Huff—make it easier for us to follow Warren's cogent but sophisticated critical analysis.

Warren's book concludes with an examination of Lopez's relationship with the jazz musician Paul Winter, with whom he ran the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in the summer of 1980, a trip that merged music and landscape. Various musicians and artists completed the list of river runners and resulted in ten tracks on Winter's 1985 album Canyon.

The trinity of critical foci mentioned above remains crucial, but here Warren has reminded us of other vital concerns. His text calls for deep engagement with the aesthetics and ethics of one of our most important living writers; and it does so in a readable, clear style. Other Country will be of use to scholars and interested readers alike, taking them further into the other country Lopez's work captures. [End Page 361]

David Thomas Sumner
Linfield College


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pp. 360-361
Launched on MUSE
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