This isn’t Gessner’s most important book (The Tarball Chronicles is), but it is his most significant for what it lends to the genre of environmental nonfiction. The flagship chapter is a resonating manifesto that calls “for wildness. For freedom. For sloppiness. For the exhilaration of breaking down the Berlin Wall of genre. [It’s] a plea for amateurism, variety, danger, spontaneity, and honesty in a world growing increasingly professional, specialized, safe, pre-packaged, partitioned, and phony.”
Like all good manifestos (see André Breton, 1924), Sick of Nature demonstrates the aesthetics Gessner proposes. The ensuing chapters range in subject matter from drunken Ultimate Frisbee antics to ranting at a horizon-defiling neighbor to tracking coyotes through urban Boston, all the while employing a unique, beer-swigging, highly-human-scholar voice as an example of innovating upon an all-too-polite and homogenous culture of mainstream, expected language. This is the kind of voice publishers of literary eco-nonfiction would be wise to incorporate on a vaster scale if they want to engage the next generation of readers and writers in this niche.
All of Harington’s novels are overlooked masterpieces, but this is the most beautiful. An epic, 500-page fatty, this highly descriptive story of a kidnapped girl growing up in Ozark isolation is one of the most captivating and unusual reads I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Told from the POV of a dog, a ghost, and various creatures in the wild, I still find it hard to believe I was willing to suspend such disbelief, though I’m glad I did, because the ride was damn well worth the natural and unnatural places it took me to. Harington is a phenomenal narrator who always blazes new and novel ways to transport via the imagination. Pure genius! Vivid, moving & provocative!
I started this 2000-page series over a decade ago with the paperbacks published by Black Sparrow Press. This series is now completely compiled and available on DVD-ROM in PDF form. Written in the eclectic style of “investigative poetics,” Sanders has chronicled the American experience of said century as thoroughly and creatively as super-humanly possible. Operating under the tenet that it’s the poet’s obligation to sing in a socially responsible manner through all the spigots of his bias (to paraphrase the thesis of Sanders’ Investigative Poetry, City Lights, ’74), Sanders’ unapologetic, humor-driven interpretation of politics and polis is the most colorful and informative text that has ever made sense of this country’s strange and wild clash between “civilization,” wilderness, all our fractioned factions of Evolution, and where we’re heading from here on out. A mammoth and Olympian bardwork of visionary awesomeness!
Ain’t no poem in the English language more epic, more ambitious, more visual and attuned to the flaming senses than this unkempt and sprawling Ejaculation from the Abyss. As Stanford’s magical, tragical literary legacy, this Whitmanesque tangle of garfish and levées and carnival midgets finds it nutmeat in the first howling 100 pages wherein an old black man fist-fights a bull rivercat while a mad dog chomps away on his leg and the river threatens to pull him under, all told from the perspective of a Southern Huck Finn side-stepping copperheads and reeling in the daze of fresh young skin. Then come eruptions of race, murder, etcetera. Holy Crap, what visions lurk herein!
Smokey is a complex character, as well as the living legend behind an obscure self-published trilogy about a barefoot country kid who grew up in the swamps of Texarkana, trapping, fishing, and wrasslin’ wild hogs. Never mind the hunt for bigfoots, which is central to these memoirs; what I find interesting here is the sincere pioneer spirit chopping its way through the wilderness while battling bobcats along the way, plus alligator snapping turtles, mountain lions, crazed water moccasins, et alia. Sure, Smokey’s an environmental-activist-hating, live-by-the-rod, paranoid conservative who I’d have nothing to do with if he lived next door, but his riveting, action-packed adventures are incredible (and credible) testimonies to the way life used to be when self-professed rednecks had nothing more than a rifle, a pair of overalls, and sheer grit.
Mark Spitzer is a gar-activist and environmental writer. He has published 18 books, including Season of the Gar (University of Arkansas Press, 2010), and is a professor of creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas. See sptzr.net for more info.