A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson

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9780816628438: A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson
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Olson is best known for his many essays that express the wonder, awe, and peace he found in the wilderness. Olson's popular books, including The Singing Wilderness, Listening Point, and Reflections from the North Country, are beloved by generations of readers, and frequently appeared on best-seller lists across the nation. The lyricism and evocative beauty of his prose became a model for nature writers like Barry Lopez and Annie Dillard. Olson was a recipient of the John Burroughs Medal, the highest honor in nature writing.
A Wilderness Within looks beyond the environmental battles and books to reveal the inner forces that drove Sigurd Olson. Backes details Olson's painful path to becoming a writer, and the physical and emotional toll that his activism and writing took from him. For this biography, Backes conducted interviews with Olson's family and had complete access to Olson's papers, diaries, correspondence, and photographs.

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This well-balanced assessment of Sigurd Olson (1899-1982) pays as much attention to his spiritual quest as to his activism in defense of America's natural resources with such groups as The Wilderness Society and the National Parks Association. Olson found a sense of completeness while hiking, canoeing, and hunting in the northern Midwest. He conveys these feelings in influential books such as The Singing Wilderness, which inspired a generation of younger nature writers. David Backes, who knew Olson in his later years, captures his personality and evaluates his achievements in lucid prose.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Backes (Canoe Country: An Embattled Wilderness, not reviewed) knits together a yeomanly portrait of Olson, a force in the mid-20th-century environmental movement, but someone today's readers may find a bit of a dinosaur. Olson will best be remembered for authoring such conservationist hymnals as The Singing Wilderness and Reflections from the North Country, where he vented his land aesthetics and spiritual beliefs. His ego was such that, after reading Thoreau, he felt ``no one has as yet developed a philosophy of the wilderness. That is up to me.'' And it is to the credit of Backes--an unabashed Olson fan who treats his papers and diaries as if they were sacred relics--that he includes such nuggets. The son of a strong-willed Swedish Baptist minister, Olson evolved a kind of wilderness theology--a love of all life in God's cosmic adventure--that found ``ritualistic significance'' in the uncivilized world. These days, Olson's writing feels by turns overly manly (``My work must be strong and hard and masculine'') and overly sentimental; readers may well agree with the Houghton Mifflin editor who rejected Olson's first collection: ``Essays . . . have to be superbly written to have a chance, and Sig Olson's prose is not on that level.'' Thus Backes wisely devotes significant space to Olson's championing such then-crazy notions as roadless areas and air reservations (patches over which no flights are allowed) and to making sense of a man who bridled at the thought of being behind a desk, who would rather have been in a canoe, yet accepted numerous administrative posts, from college dean to president of the Wilderness Society, with many a bureaucratic stop between, hating them all the while. Impeccably researched, near-claustrophobically detailed, evenhanded--Backes's volume gives a sense of the Olson behind the legend. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Book Description University of Minnesota Press, United States, 1999. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Sigurd Olson (1899-1982) was acknowledged during his lifetime as a leader of the American environmental movement, an emblematic figure for a generation of activists. A Wilderness Within is the award-winning biography of this writer, teacher, and activist who was a harbinger of the raising of America s ecological consciousness. Seller Inventory # AAC9780816628438

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