On the Dark Side of the Moon: A Journey Toward Recovery : by Mike Medberry First: it’s hard to imagine Medberry lying on the hot black lava rock of Craters for 7 hours before a helicopter is able to airlift him to medical care, but that’s where the book starts us. It’s enough to make a person cringe, let alone any EMT or medical student who knows that for brain injury or trauma, a few minutes can be critical to a positive recovery. It’s fascinating too that the stroke occurs in the very park Medberry will cheer for as President Bill Clinton in November of 2000 signs the proclamation that makes final the expansion increasing the protected land to 737,000 acres, “nearly 14 times its previous size.”
River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers, by Daniel McCool : Reviewed by Hal Crimmel As readers learn about the work of these instigators, they too may be inspired to take action on behalf of rivers, but also, perhaps, more broadly, for the environment in general. McCool illustrates that citizen action leavened with a balanced approach to working with multiple stakeholder groups can result in a successful new water ethic: one that benefits people, the economy, and the environment. This ethic is exemplified in the idea of a “River Republic,” characterized by sustainable public use of waterways, from fast-flowing high country streams to the languid meanders of bayou country.
Unaccountable Weather, by Kathryn Kirkpatrick : Reviewed by Dorine Jennette Kathryn Kirkpatrick’s Unaccountable Weather links the health of body, land, and spirit in lyric and narrative poems that recount the speaker’s treatment for breast cancer. Some pieces are semi-surreal lyrics, while other poems take the form of monologues from a patient. One strong lyric is “The Garden of Lost Breasts,” in which the breasts “arrive on the backs of herons, / in the pouches of possums.” Once in the garden, the breasts find that “[b]ecause they have often fed others, // the animals refuse to eat them”. In the monologue “Donna Goes Dancing,” the speaker gets carried away on the dance floor and flings the prosthetics from her “Dolly Parton bra” at her surprised but laughing partner. Still other pieces, such as “Called Back,” travel the speaker’s memory to non-cancer-related experiences of violence and oppression. Collectively, pieces treating oppressive episodes bind the collection together, for Kirkpatrick links gender-based and class-based violence against people to violence against landscapes. She then connects habitat destruction to its inevitable consequences for human bodies, steeped as we are in “plastics and pesticides”. Through her persistence in drawing the reader’s attention again and again to interconnectedness and its consequences, Kirkpatrick’s Unaccountable Weather, though not an overtly “political” book, sings a quiet but insistent ecofeminist anthem.
Gardening Secrets of the Dead, by Lee Herrick : Reviewed by Suzanne Roberts The poems in Lee Herrick’s second book, Gardening Secrets of the Dead, are love songs to landscapes both foreign and domestic, imaginary and real. The tension in the poems results from oppositions and the poet’s refusal to reconcile the irreconcilable. Herrick, who was born in Korea and adopted by American parents, sings to a lost landscape, one which is at once strange and familiar. In the poem “Rhyme,” Herrick writes: All we want is to not be watched. All the glitches hiss. Medicate. Meditate. Korea, homeland. Go quietly then resist how perfect you are this time.
Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests, by Joan Maloof : Reviewed by Andrew C. Gottlieb Joan Maloof’s latest book, Among the Ancients, is an enjoyable, informed, readable genre-collage that takes readers to what will most likely be unfamiliar territory: Eastern United States old-growth forest. It’s easy to consider “old-growth” as synonymous with Redwood and Sequoia National Parks, with the gigantic Douglas firs of the Pacific Northwest, with Washington State’s Olympic National Forest. After all, isn’t that what we’re talking about? Huge, old unlogged trees in a few national parks? In her preface, Maloof tells us that Maurice Schwartz of the United Nations Forestry Division at one point found 98 different definitions of the term. So, old growth isn’t just giant, and it’s not just 1,000 years old. It’s really a section of forest where trees—even small ones, high-altitude pines—have been left to grow through a natural life-cycle, a cycle that increases the biodiversity of the forest itself. Maloof takes us on her journey to forests small and large in each of the 26 states east of the Mississippi, most of which contain trees that for some reason—activist or accident—were not logged early last century when the eastern part of the United States was mown like a lawn for timber during the industrial development of the timber industry and the nation’s building and population expansion. But these aren’t redwoods. Tulip poplars, buckeyes, poisonwood trees, oak, hickory, maple. “No matter where you live in the East, there is an old-growth forest you can reach in a day,” she tells us.
What the River Carries: Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte, by Lisa Knopp : Reviewed by Hal Crimmel Lisa Knopp’s most recent collection of essays, What the River Carries: Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte, explores the rivers of the Midwest, the region she’s always called home. Knopp, the author of four other essay collections, combines nature writing, memoir, and place-based writing to explore the three rivers that have defined her life. For readers interested in a region that tends to be overlooked by contemporary travelers and writers alike, What the River Carries meaningfully contributes to a canon of Midwestern creative nonfiction that includes the work of writers such as William Least Heat Moon (his classic: PrairyErth), the work of the late Paul Gruchow (Journal of a Prairie Year; Grass Roots: The Universe of Home), John Price, (Man Killed by Pheasant: And Other Kinships; Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands), and others.
The Tarball Chronicles, by David Gessner : Reviewed by Frank Izaguirre I have a complicated relationship with David Gessner’s writing the same way he has a complicated relationship with being a nature writer. On the one hand, I appreciate his self-appointed status as a watchdog for stereotypical environmentalists, and on the other I find it a bit weird that probably his best known book was written for an audience of mostly nature writers just to notify them that they’re uncool and need to drink beer in order to stop being uncool. I enjoy a nature writer who’s at least as eager to commune with people as animals. I’m also a little worried about his drinking. Can’t tell if that’s what he wants. Regardless, the man’s writing at an impressive clip these days, publishing a book each of the last two years. The Tarball Chronicles, his latest,is a travelogue/meditation on the Gulf oil spill and what it means for the region, our country, and even the world. We join Gessner on his haphazard and unplanned journey, meeting endearing locals and emblematic wildlife; and we get a closeup of how a corporation can shush away all problems by whispering dollars.
This Ecstatic Nation: The American Landscape and the Aesthetics of Patriotism By Terre Ryan University of Massachusetts Press, 2011 Reviewed by Andrew C. Gottlieb It’s a challenging and complex task: loving ... Read More...